Tale of the War of Lakshadbi

“Allow me to paint you the full picture,” the Elder sat on a high seat of dried bones, twigs, and feathers, wrapped into a bundle with moist twine, “Lakshadbi, once, had not great structures melting into its soil.”

The chamber was carpeted with a vinewoven mat, huge and sprawling, but prickly; and itself the chamber was woven of hardened roots, suspending above the suckling marsh below. Within sat the Elder on his throne, and the clutch sitting on the mat, listening intently. He was a mammoth thing, with a great blue shell and aged flesh; and he was adorned ceremoniously with many great charms and dolls.

“That can’t be true, can it?”, one the youngsters asked, a small snail with a crunchy shell.

“O, but it is!”

The little ones turned to one another, hushed murmurs bounced around the ornate storytelling room before the Elder silenced them with the raising of his eyestalk.

“Our home, Lakshadbi, was once the grounds of the Arch Immolator, Verdugo Karkinos. Blessed with sapience by the stars above, and so he began a crusade in the name of the heavens; he recruited a great many sorcerers and star-loyal practitioners of the Profane arts.”

“Verdugo Karkinos dabbled with the magicks of the Heavens, and paid the price. He lost his own antenna, and wielded it still as a staff to conjure ever-burning flame. Of course, such wanton use of accursed magicks invoked the ire of the Golden Crusade.”

“Their leader, Gustav the Golden, and his Centurion League of great godloyal knights, marched into the swamp against the Arch Immolator. Great warmachines tore the Earth to cinders, and starformed amalgamations burned the water with starry flame. The final survivors of the conflict, the Golden, and the Immolator, fought to a standstill at the heart of our swamp. And it was there that Gustav the Golden sacrificed his right arm to banish Verdugo Karkinos deep underground.”

“It is time,” the corvian knight said. It was fully dressed in chainmail, only its head uncovered by metal, and it held in its hand a rapier.

Gwyndion rose from his gilded cot, “Ugh, did some pestiferous maiden escape the brothel?”

“Take your weapons and armor, this is something new,” the corvian knight left as quickly as he came.

Gwyndion’s suit sat impaled on a gear stand. His suit was golden and heavy, strong and tough metal plates with a chainmail skirt that tapered down to his knees. His helmet, tall, prideful, and auric, had a pulchritudinous mane of flowing white hair. He had to strain every muscle to equip every piece, the girdle, the helmet, the breastplate, upon all of which were carved symbols of greatcats who wieldeth holy polearms. Sat largest amongst his wargear was his halberd, a gargantuan thing with an axeblade and a helixlike speartipped point, for slashing and stabbing. The mammoth weapon required inhuman strength to wield, and its ability to maim and impale was unprecedented.

Gwyndion’s burdensome wargear awakened his muscles as he walked over to the gathering of soldiers. There was a great golden fire, set alight around a crucifix on which a Man was hung. Gwyndion lumbered to the corvian knight. It was an agile thing, gaunt with the head of a skeletal crow; wielding in one hand a grand rapier and in the other a bloodstained onzil. It was far taller than Gwyndion, towering over him in its garment of chainmail and leather.

“I thought the Burning was to be done next fortnight?”

“So we all did, battlefriends of mine tell of a relocation into Lakshadbi. I know not why such a thing were to be required though, Gwyndion.”

One by one, each warrior immolated their weapons in the flame, now stinking of boiling fat and flesh. The Man hung upon the crucifix had carved into his chest an inverted crux immissa, and his face was contorted into an acrimonious scowl. A traitor, branded as such for his sacrilege, no doubt; burnt at the stake for defiling something sacrosanct. A crime most heinous, indeed.

The soldiers began to disperse as their weapons grew incandescent, Gwyndion and the corvian knight stood together, cooling their weapons in the damp chill of the mycelium. Gwyndion expressed his confusion to the knight, “How are we supposed to travel to Lakshadbi during Hyphomycetes?”

“They’re saying that the fungus hasn’t taken the swamps this year,” the corvian knight replied, “I believe there will be an official statement tomorrow on the matter.”

“But why would we need to go down there, no one but barbaric snails dare settle in that putrescent place.”

“Methinks there is but one reason” the corvian knight said, “Verdugotrackers have caught wind of Karkinos, strutting amidst the muck. I think we may be moving down there to stop him.”

“I guess so, but we are not of Lakshadbi, we should be defending the sovereignty of holy Phantaheim.”

“O, but I thinketh thou misinterprets the threat at hand,” the corvian knight put down his weapons and sat in the cushy moldgrowth, “There are countless heretics outside our lands, some closer to us than we may choose to ponder. If we continue to let them spread.. well, I think the Warcouncil is doing the right thing in moving us, to stop them.”

Gwyndion enjoyed the scenery while he could. There were great fields of blue and white mold, and from the fluffy mold came great fungal stalks of different varieties. Some were bulbous and tall on thin boughs, while others were thick and strong with bioluminescent multicolored pileus. In the cycle of Hyphomycetes, every fungus known, an unfathomable quantity of genera, overtaketh the land and transfigure it into a great mycobiome. Beautiful, but grotesque, as the spores coat every Man, infesting the weak and devouring the dead.

“I suppose I should be off, seeya,” the corvian knight walked down the hill and into the camp.

Gwyndion looked down upon his halberd, and all of its intricacies. He thought of the blood it spilled. There was a blaring of trumpets which came from the camp, a call to action, and the roaring of troops as they ran to the gathering-stage.

The stage was a grand thing, set high and tall of white stone in the center of the outpost. Upon it was a simple microphone and myriad banners, of Phantaheim, of the Centurion League, of the Holy Son’s Cavalry. Sat upon the stage was an eruciform creature, coiled and holding a scroll, guarded by two spearwielding praetorians. Its voice was shrill, and its mandibles clacked with every word.

“These words have been transcribed directly from the orders of Gustav the Golden, ave Phantaheim: The threat of the Cosmos is yet to be delineated, and so feareth the night and all that which it governeth. My task unto thee, to march into the bowels of the feral swamps of Lakshadbi so we may purge the despoilers that it harbors.”

“O grace, O grace, Phantaheim bring us home!” the shanty was sung in rapturous tune as the soldiers of Phantaheim rallied; under the gracegiven call for Blood.

The Long March

Golden Path to Lakshadbi, stained in auric cinders.
Centurion League, bereft of Blood, marcheth to the graceless lands.
Leaving behind them, goldtinged waste, across the crucifix-ridden path.
To war, O to war, for Gustav the Golden.

The path to Lakshadbi was a perilous one, from which jutted many crosses that held the bodies of despoilers, and the silence of the bloodstained grounds was disturbed itself. Immolators, Marksmen, Calvary, they were all apart of the same conglomeration as the armies descended upon the lands of Lakshadbi. The Golden Path was the primary route inwards and outwards from the swamps, and while it was worn and carcassridden, it became the staging grounds for the hallowed crusade to come.

Gwyndion, esteemed knight of the Holy Son’s Calvary, was chained to his armored horse before the March began. It was a great heresy to abandon one’s post, one so great that it was customary precaution to make sure it never happened again. His horse was muscular, veiled by sheets of fabric and thick plate, and upon it was a knight set into place by many gargantuan golden locks, which kept the chains tight on Gwyndion’s waist. It was quite a shoulderfull to bare, his halberd and shield, the ball-and-chains across his hips, and the wounds of battles past. Besides him, tending to his horse, was the corvian knight; battlebuddies never left each other, it seemed, even in War.

“Doth thee see that which lyeth before us? The suckling swamp, before which I am certain defiles our grace,” the corvian knight said.

“Aye, we shall charge to battle, in the name of Phantaheim.”

“For Phantaheim,” the corvian clinked its sword on Gwyndion’s shield.

As they reached the pinnacle of their march, the soldiers encountered something recently erected. There was of course only one entrance to Lakshadbi, which required the army to move into a small valley and into the swamplands, a highly defensible position which until now had been entirely vacant. Ramshackle in construction, and denuded of any proper construction materials, there were many watchtowers that pierced the empyrean. Made finely, and exclusively, of sharp sticks and logs bound together with twine and wax, with mammoth tarpaulins serving as pseudoceilings. Atop such towers were strange creatures, lanky and without faces, and about the color of blue cheese; blue mold and all. Most prevalent upon them were their crooked legs and arachnid abdomens, and their clawed hands which wielded scrapforged guns.

The Arbiter who led the March, atop his great riding-crocodile clad in white armor, and himself almost angelic in appearance with his feathered wings and flowing robes, held high his hand as a signal. Silence. The soldiers stopped in their tracks. Flowing from the Arbiter’s back were four flowing strips of white fabric, tapering into golden plate, undulating even without the presence of wind as though they were underwater. The Arbiter beckoned one of its praetorians with a flick of its ribbons and it whispered something to it.

The Praetorian nodded, and walked back into the crowd of Men. To the east were the warmachines; great fighting automatons, armored fighting vehicles, seige towers, every variety. Clad in golden armor, accumulated around which were many scantily armored warriors who loaded dozens of ammunitions into the chambers. Mortar shells, Explosive salvos, other such things all of different intricacy and shape and size; each insertion priming the warmachines as their engines howled to life.

Chiefly amongst them were the Steam Tanks, great churning things with thick continuous tracks and gargantuan verinsteam-devouring engines. Each tank had sturdy armor, durable and golden in hue, adorned with vine-patterns and squamous statues. Their great gunturret was capable of fine-tuned gyrations, and absorbed the shock of the great cannon, which fired mammoth hollowpoint shells. The weighty frame of the vehicle was burdensome enough that even the great engines, constantly fueled by great cylinders of water, and so a great millipede helped pull the tank. At the cost, of course, of ease of rotation and an extremely slow top speed, the warmachine can annhilate large targets with ease.

“Gwyndion,” the corvian knight tapped his shoulder and jumped onto his horse, “We have orders to ride to the easternmost part of the formation, where the machines lay.”

“What is the plan?”

“Tumbledown fortifications such as these are certainly not sanctioned by the Lordship, we believeth them to be those of hostile forces.”

“The unholy?” Gwyndion asked.


The earth of the warpath was furrowed by the greatwheels of the great warmachines; the moldy mycelium defiled and shred down to the moist soil. Most ornate amidst them a great seigneur, standing upon a socle carried by many Men, impaled through the chest by barbed spikes and wailing, slave-traitors of the Golden Legion.

“Sir, what does thou desireth?” the corvian knight jumped from Gwyndion’s horse and saluted; a unique salute of the Golden, in which the hands are clasped and raised high above the head in pseudoprayer.

“Lead the charge, thou art the fastest amongst us with your comrade. Scout before us, we will brook them little quarter.”

“Affirmative, sir, we shall—”

A stentorian caterwaul, tumultuous and cacophonously profane, followed hastily by a flurry of serrated spines. It was that which signified an assault. The towerwatchers scrambled across the towers, chittering to each other. Golden warmachines began to make their assault, as did Gwyndion and his corvian pal.


The Steam Tanks released their salvos, great booms deafened the soldiers around and the smog exuded from the barrels created an effect smokescreen. The towerwatchers were primitively armed, indubitably without anything but simple biofirearms, their towers also made of flammable and nondurable materials. But as the shells reached their destinations they simply exploded in midair.

“The Fuck?” Gwyndion said.

Shells from the Steam Tanks; Mortar Shells from Artillery; Harpoons from the Hwacha; Even spears thrown by the finest Men; all deflected by some impermeable, incorporeal carapace. In an instant, the Towerwatchers retaliated upon the warmachines with their own accursed artillery. Conglomerations of raging Fire rained down from the towers, an unnatural and accursed flame, which landed upon troop and machine alike — immolation without discrimination.

Agglutinations of cadavers piled across the gateway into Lakshadbi, equally as derelict as the towers but formed of a stronger soapstone. Incandescent corpsepiles became bonfires that heated the mire. It was quick that the tight formation of the legion collapsed as they failed to destroy even a single structure of the Swamp. Their fate was sealed when troopers of Lakshadbi descended from above.

Winged things they were, with many very long coelenterate appendages that draped down like wet hair. Chief amongst the appendagebundle were two great and long arms, gaunt and crooked, which branched into tentacles that were infinitely delicate, flexible, strong, and accurate in muscular-nervous coordination. Their heads, bulbous and crackling with neuroelectricity, were littered with primitive eyes that were cloudy with cataracts. At first thought to be weak and feeble, the Golden Legion panicked as they conjured the Might of the Stars. Sending heavy knights flying like paper, and levitating many lesser Men to crack their joints like twigs and play with them like Toys.

Only a few of these creatures were ever killed, for it was hard to reach them while they flew. Gwyndion himself was caught in a pickle too, like his allies. The cluster of Warmachines was all but destroyed; transmuted into scrap and ash both from skyward projectiles and soldiers went flying from the wicked magician-things. Before him now were the greatsoldiers of Lakshadbi, heard of in myth as lumbering ogres who were more stupid than they were strong. But those myths, like many others of the golden legion, were lies. The greatsoldiers were very tall, 9ft at least, and they did not have heads. Their neural centres were located within their chest, which was heavily armored in a carapace overgrown with twinkling moss that looked as though it was a painting of the night sky. The greatsoldiers of Lakshadbi wielded no weapons, for their osseous hands, which were so long they seemed more like forelegs, were adequate enough. The two serrated claws upon them shred even heavy knights into bones and bits; and the soldiers effortlessly lifted hundreds of pounds of steel to fling at the remaining lines of troops.

Gwyndion had mobility on his horse, however, and the corvian knight had range. He flanked around one of the beasts, occupied with the still-fighting remnants of a Steam Tank. He slashed at its back, but its dorsal osteoderms, spiked and multifaceted as they were, caused the halberd to become stuck on the creature’s back. It turned around with the ferocity of a great ape, only to be repelled by a flurry of daggers from the corvian knight. They penetrated only lightly into the corpus of the greatsoldier; but still it was enough to irk the beast. It leaped into the air with its hindlegs, digitigrade and triclawed for pouncing, and slammed down onto the horse. The strength of the creature, alongside the extreme density and hardness of the chitin on its forearms, was an equivalent to two gargantuan greathammers slamming down upon the armored steed’s spine. The warhorse was immediately paralyzed as its spine shattered to bits.

“Brother!” the corvian knight leaped from the dead steed’s back and onto that of the greatsoldier’s. There were small fleshy gaps between the segmented carapace. The corvian knight plunged his rapier deep into the exposed, luminescent blue flesh.

The greatsoldier yelled with the voices of those that it devoured. The corvian knight yanked from the beast’s back Gwyndion’s halberd.

“Kill this deplorable thing!” the corvian knight yelled.

In an instant, the greatsoldier flipped onto its back like a beached whale. The corvian knight did not evade the danger, instead it chose to salute to Gustav the Golden before being crushed under the creature. Its spiked dorsal carapace made quick work of the corvian knight, crushing and mutilating its carcass, now smeared across the ground like a smashed bug. Gwyndion stood now, locked to his dead horse, with his halberd as the greatsoldier made its charge. It was though it laughed as the creature charged forth towards Gwyndion.

Gwyndion reached for his halberd, “I have to cut the locks,” he thought.

The halberd was unwieldly as a slicing device, but adrenaline could make anything work if needed. Still, the metal was strong, stronger than the metal of his own weapon. The shackles of the Faith. Gwyndion stared at the beast, charging towards him; time seemed to slow as the dirt flew from every leap and bound. Gwyndion thought of the Faith, and of the corpse smeared now on the ground; Gwyndion closed his eyes for a final time.

“Gwyndion,” the voice of the corvian knight echoed through his head, crooked and eloquent as it was before he was pulverized, “Remember thy oath, for Gustav the Golden, of Phantaheim.”

“For Phantaheim,” Gwyndion awoke from his stupor and pointed the halberd forwards, its sharp helix pointed out just as the greatsoldier reached him. Where there once was a stump, there was now a greatweapon which impaled cleanly through the spine. The force of the beast’s charge and the strong metal of the Faith’s result was clear. Still, he fought against the residual strength of the Creature. It continued to swing its arms as Gwyndion steered it to the side with all his strength. The beast slashed and flailed about, it slashed at Gwyndion’s torso, cutting both his chains and his flesh and armor. Just one greatsoldier, a foe this hardy, durable and strong like a Steam Tank but mobile like a horseman, it horrified Gwyndion. It continud to flail about, but even a beast of this strength could only survive so long. Like a cockroach succumbing to the flames, the greatsoldier stilled.

The abyss slipped around Gwyndion’s vision as the shouting of Lakshadbi greatsoldiers and Goldsworn screaming prevailed the area. Clanking of swords and flesh, explosions of Men being flung, of swampbeasts being slaughtered. Gwyndion’s body could handle it not, and he slipped into insentience.

Gustav’s Woe

What was once a proud camp of primed soldiers became a sprawling complex of sickbays, hospitals, and pseudoecclesiastical sites. The First Assault of Lakshadbi was big enough a failure that it invoked the attention of a plethora of legislative forces. Amongst them the Nobles of Phantaheim, who sat on a quickbuilt spire of golden lumber, overseeing the sprawling outpost. The base was a gargantuan thing, scrimshawed from the old militia camp into a predominantly medical complex, invigilated by great spires in which the potentates of Phantaheim sat.

Within their chamber was a grand hall, vast and populated with many comforts. Electricity, chief amongst them, and in place of flame there were strange energy-powered lamps. Architecture was simple, and at times wrapped in cables. The room was made of a black timber, and had the light of a cabin in the woods; for there were no windows but one of stained glass. A grand longtable sat in the middle of the room, with quite a few chairs, it was ornate and made of fine Phantaheim timber, and veiled in soft fabric. Sat in each chair was a Lord, illuminated by a fireplace against the wall:

Thumathin, who’s head looked as though it was a sarcous flower, and it is he who is adorned in ritual garments. And still-lit candles adorn his pauldrons and sat besides him was his trident; unique in its structure, so that it resembled flowing wind or water.

Elthin, who was a myrmeleontid thing with prominent jawparts that were long and hooked. His eyes were large and iridescent, so too was his blackish-gold carapace. And from his back sprouted grand wings which were inscribed with runes of Gold.

Evulsyr, who was a skeletal creature, larger than any other Lord, with a small and irregular lobelike face. Which was littered with many closely-packed holes that leaked a black fluid. It was he who was the Mangled Ones, his corpus leaked organs and blood, for his ribs were torn open and he was without skin. And from his back painfully erupted skeletal wings, from which long and thin tubifex worms draped. He was little more than a mutilated carcass, a seedbed for parasites.

And chief amongst even them was Gustav the Golden, who resembled a great Cat who was encrusted in grey stone; with many cracks in the dermalith that leaked a glitterly gold sludge. Placed upon the table near him was his hammer, a small thing from which golden thorns erupted. It was of solid stone, and cracked from many decades of use without repair. Gustav’s mouth was agape, and his jaws serrated with two large fangs upon the upper region of his mouth near the lips. His eyes, were small and pure yellow, glowing too. He sat on the end of the longtable, as Monarch of Phantaheim.

So effervescent was the reverenced oligarchy for war that talks were short in their constitution, and straight and concise in their deducement of proper retaliatory action. It was clear to them, indeed, that the forces of Lakshadbi were reinforced not by superior technology nor firepower as those of Gustav were, but instead affiliated with accursed things and so rewarded with strength for that. It was without doubt, Gustav thought, that the forces of the Sky and the Cosmos were invoked to assist Lakshadbi in building their heretical polity. This crisis, was in fact, then far more cyclopean in severity than previously cogitated; and so escalation of great magnitudes was required. These forces were no longer classified simply as “Bugs” to be extirpated, no, these creatures and the nuclear terrors they may harbor are to be exterminated immediately.

And so, Gustav slammed his battered hammer against the table, which silenced what little chatter remained, “It is so,” He announced, “We shall go to war with the might of Phantaheim proper.”

The remaining Lords nodded their heads, best they could considering their terrifying anatomy, and left the room. Still they gossiped like children, their voices well-articulated and eloquent, but lacking the natural emotional tone of the standard voice of Man. Such were the uncanny vocal cords of these creatures, capable only of mimicking improperly the speech of Men. Their language, indeed, was a blethering one, without much pause and very pseudoformal, without understanding the required faculties of being truly proper. Isolation from the Men of Phantaheim, had led to this stilted result.

Greatest amongst the newly-sprouted districts of this battlecamp, and the only one amidst them actively proliferating, were the Greatmorgues. In the First Assault there had been endless casualties, it seemed, far more soldiers died than lived that Day. And in comparison to those killed on the side of Lakshadbi, it was a one-sided slaughter, cacadaemoniacal and accursed in the sheer profanity of the quantity of carcasses that were harvested. Many amongst them could not be collected, for they had been the victims of such accursed profanation that the remains were toxic; or they were simply so deep into the tumefied enemy lines that they could not be retrieved. Indeed, the forces of Lakshadbi did not brook any quarter, and so no corpse collectors were granted trespass to drag the carcasses back into the safelands.

Gwyndion, alas, was one of the many corpses to be uncovered, alongside the cadaverine-spewing pulp that was his corvian compatriot. Indeed, he was one of the few who documented soldiers to have killed a Greatsoldier of Lakshadbi; and so this accomplishment was marked in a manilla folder, likely to be forgotten, alas, in the rushing timeline of war.

Gustav the Golden sat alone in their convening room, deeply pondering the War to come. Lakshadbi, the Black Swamp, was always attuned closely to the stars. Be it through happenstance or some other peculiarity; and while blasphemous, the legislation of Phantaheim never anticipated such accursed desecration to occur. And such a crushing nadir was certainly never anticipated in the voluminous deliberations of the oligarchy. It was so, that Gustav pondered, sullenly, he sat alone without his Lords. Holding in his hands only his hammer, never before, not for a long while at least, had so powerful a force besieged and threatened the sanctity of the Faith. It was time it seemed, that an old ally was to be beckoned forth.

Halleck’s Flame.

Cinders of Halleck

Halleck, O Halleck
You shall immolate them with flames, bright white flames,
They will burn, day after day,
In the embrace of Halleck’s Flame.

My duties were arduous and lengthy, but I never doubted for even a picosecond their significance. Before me was a great brazier, rimmed with black steel pikes and formed predominantly of a black igneous stone. Lying deep within the black and dark cauldron was an agglutination of coals, the seedbed of a great conflagration. Halleck’s flame, it was called, the hardily crafted handiwork of my Majesty. A radiant flame so bright that it charred the eyeballs, and which seemed almost like jelly when it stuck to the skin. I used a great and long pole, upon which were a series of bifurcated protuberance, to tend to the smoldering fire. Without my constant supervision, the flame would begin to spark, and erupt into a great incendiary typhoon before it would evanesce, much like my corporeal form should I fail my duty.

I am the second of my Kind, my progenitor and forefather tended to the flame for time immemorial, but the kindling of the Flame is inevitably suspect to the machinations of Reality: chief amongst them Entrophy, and the Black Winds that the force exudes. I remember clearly being guided from my quarters into a small room with nothing but a projector, which demonstrated to me vividly and explicitly the fates of those who fail their duties. I watched as the abyssal-tinged segmented armor of my forebearer was stripped away like the carapace of a prawn, and too I saw their skinless corpus evulsed from their faux dermis of plate armor.

I was never to leave the Room of the Flame, unless I was of course beckoned, and fortunately this antechamber was significantly larger than that of my previous abode. Despite the presence of the allburning flame, the chamber of Halleck’s Flame was monotonously dim. The entire chamber was constructed of the same black-brown igneous stone of the cauldron, porous and rough in its texture, and the architecture was bare and without detail. The ceilings were high, but boxy, and so too were the floors. I stood upon an elevated platform that rimmed the Cauldron, that despite not being connected to anything, floated ominously above. I could only leave my platform if one of my compatriots entered the room to lower this platform, as if it were an elevator. But I did not truly desire such a thing to occur, tending to Halleck’s Flame is deceptively simple, soporific and relaxing was it to be accompanied by one’s thoughts while watching the gentle flickering of the pale flame.

The room’s lacking of intricacies and sophistications made the room akin to a black void, after awhile I stopped focusing my eyes on the Flame or anything at all really. The gently articulations of my limbs as I stoked the Flame made me feel more as though I was an automaton than I was a Man. In fact, it’d been so long since I’d stirred that the joints of my armor had begun to rust, and a veil of soot covered the thin slat through which I saw out my helm. Of course, there was one ornation, the gate to the outer world; which was a towering and imposing rectangle of black soot-covered steel. Carved upon it depictions of clutching arms that reached upwards towards a simple inflorescent depiction of Halleck’s Flame. It was, of course, so silent that I had never been bothered by it. That was, until this dreaded day.

The silent and gentle crackling of the pale flame was rended apart by the clamorousity of horrible metal grinding against soft stone. A horrible shrieking noise it was, that assailed my ears as too, the comparatively bright light of the halls entered into my eyes. Even through the veil of soot my pupils constricted, the first usage of my aching and atrophied eyes in perhaps decades. I dropped my metallic firebrand as the platform began to lower, and the second use of my body in a long, long time was looking towards the trespasser.

It was a looming thing, akin to a behemoth, for it towered far above my stature. It was certainly about 16ft in height, and clad in the same black-steel armor as I, and it wielded a jagged waraxe nearly as tall as it was itself. Its helmet had 3 vertical slits, and an orange flame coming from within made its head like a furnace. Its arms were long and clawed, like those of an ape’s, but its legs were far longer and the Creature was certainly fit and of my Race. It stood at the threshold of my domain, illuminated by the light of the hallway behind it; completely reversed in its architectural style, for it was ornate and many statues holding normalflame braziers were carved of the brown stone.

“Keeper of the Flame,” His voice was booming, “I am the Guardian of Halleck’s Flame as You are its Keeper. It has been a long while since we have seen each other, perhaps you do not remember what we once had.”

I was bewildered at the implicities of that final snippet of the statement, but I did not care to ponder or confront my fellow about such things. I stretched my joints, best I could, and my rustic armor creaked from the sudden “heavy” use of its faculties. The Guardian seemed impatient, but I was to make him wait for the sake of my own comfort, it had been a long while since I have been selfless.

“You seek me now, for what purpose,” I tried my best to remember the script, which my supervisors told me to recite if the gate to the Flame was opened, but I truly forgot the rest of it and I stuttered to finish my monologue.

It seemed too, that my lumbering fellow’s script was also lost to time, as he stuttered before giving up on such formalities, “Hark, we are to War, I have no time for bothersome loligaggings, nor do you, lest you want to vex our Lord Halleck.”

Halleck, the one word that echoed through my head, one of the few objects of the outside world that still skulked my Mind from time to time. For it was he who subjected me unto my duties, and it seemed too that it was He who would exonerate me of them. Of course, he was my King, but in that room of sensory deprivation, just me and the Flame, I lost most of my loyalties to the Monarch. It seemed that, however, I needed to rekindle them; as I did my faculties in other activities.

I did know, however, of the primary requirement for which I was tasked ultimately in this scenario. For I have through my incompetence and dullmindedness failed to mention a striking detail of my form. A great circular hole in my armor, endlessly black and yearning, hungering. Surrounded entirely by warped serrations formed of the segments of my breastplate. Orbiting the cavity was a series of runes, which fabricated an indecipherable sentence which only I myself could read:

“O, Flame of Halleck, Great Conflagration, I call to thee with endless Faith; bring Flame, cometh to thy master.”

I uttered the sentence and in an instant, as if it were a tentacle, the Flame of Halleck leaped from the cauldron and into my chest. It was akin to a tubifex worm, crawling readily and greedily into a cadaver. And so, from that point on, from my chest came a luminescent spark; the hole within me filled. And so, it was I who was to be the ferryman of Halleck.

The hallway through which we strolled was gargantuan in size, formed solidly of the same brown stone so indicative of Halleck’s domain. It was in opposition to the room of the Flame, however, in its delineations. The ceiling of the hall was formed of glass, interwoven with coiled bars of steel, and it was this ceiling that protected us from the ocean of magma above. It was haunting, to think, that such volcanic strength is situated just 100ft above us. Across the walls of the hallway were many pillars of metal, and near them were statues of our Kin; kneeling and wielding bowls that burned with orange foreverflame. At the end of the hall was yet another gate, this time formed of sharp bars and dangling chainmail. In comparison to the Darkness of my former habitat, this place was surely to blind me.

The Complex through which we navigated was baroque in its architecture, sprawled upon which in its entirely were carvings of Halleck and his Flame, and there were many windows through which we could see the outside below. It seemed that my memories were distorted and warped by my time in the room of the Flame; for we were perhaps hundreds or thousands of feet above sealevel, the opposite of my previous inclinations. The Guardian led me to an elevator, large and fanciful in its architecture, and one of the few things in the castle hooked up to electricity. With a gentle whir, the ovular thing descended; it was formed of metal, and a fleshy-colored light embedded in the floor illuminated the moving chamber. I forgot of my lesser hatred of light, for my experiences in the Dark magnified it to a startling degree, and even before my time as Flamekeeper I felt such a feeling to a lesser lesser extent. I dreaded to see the Sun.

The lifted descended at a slow but steady pace, and it took an awkwardly long time to reach its nadir. When the door opened I was guided through multiple floorlevel chambers before I was led to the main gate of the Castle that led to the ash-coated courtyard. The gate was like that of the one to the Flame, but insane in its size, so titanic and cyclopean that it seemed as though it was a spawn of a hecatoncheires. Hilariously, and despite my expectations, the gate did not open, and my Guardian-Fellow gestured me to a smaller gateway through which we could make our exodus. The courtyard was so ineffably vast that I could barely comprehend its scale; walls of steel and brown stone an innumerable amount of miles away surrounded us like coiled snakes.

The ash-choked sun was not nearly as bright as I anticipated, and there was no foliage whatsoever. There were great monolithic watchtowers, and gargantuan statues of our Majesty, so large that they could be seen from the exit to the Courtyard, almost a thousand miles away. Before us was a metal platform, brobdingnagian as one were to expect from this mountain-sized castle. Speaking of which, I failed to truly fathom the size of Halleck’s kingdom, the structure in of itself was so insanely cyclopean that it pierced the clouds. It was like a leech, that consumed the mountain that it was built upon, and it was an irregular comminglement of aristocratic spires and subfortresses and watchtowers and statues that held greatbraziers.

The Guardian of the Flame slammed the butt of his axe against the ash, creating a plume of grey powder that blinded me for but a brief moment. It drew the attention of a cluster of individuals, stood the metal platform, who were no doubt of significance. For they stood on equal footing, at least figuratively, with our Lord Halleck, who also stood upon the hallowed Negotiation Platform. He was a true leviathan, taller than all the figures who stood amongst me, even the Guardian. Halleck, my Majesty, wielded in his hand an elephantine machete which curved upwards, and its thick, turbosharp blade shone under the sun. In his other hand, was a thin but serpentine walking stick that was as tall as Halleck himself. It was of similar width and architectural likeness to the handle and spine of his blade.

Amongst him too was a plethora of strange creatures, a buglike creature, a stone cat, and what resembled a carcass manipulated by the strings of a puppet with greatwings. At last, Halleck turned to me, and I was filled with dread as all eyes were on me.

“Sacred Keeper of my Flame,” with every word white fire erupted from his mouth and nostrils, “Come forth to me.”

He got onto his knees so that he could vaguely and poorly emulate my short stature, and gestured me towards him with a undulation of his finger. He was vaguely reptillian, with thick armor like that of Mine and a chainmail hood that veiled the majority of his magmatic visage.

“Gustav, Thumathin, Elthin, Evulsyr, you come for my Flame, and this is He Who Keepeth it beneath his dermis.”

I felt many eyes on me, those of my Master, and those of these strange foreigners; who while I knew were cordial with me, I did not really feel it, not yet.

“I am Gustav.. the Golden,” The stone cat thing, scantily clad only on his waist with a cloth robe, outstretched his hand to me. I looked back at Halleck, who grinned at me and nodded for me to go on and touch the Cat Man.

“I am the Keeper of the Flame,” His grip was firm, and he gave me a warm smile as we made contact,

I shook hands with the remaining foreigners before I retook my place behind Lord Halleck, veiled within his cape, which was soft and velvety, and it tapered into a warm incandescence.

“Come, all of you, we will discuss affairs in the absence of prying eyes,” Hallack gazed about to the patrolling and soulless automatons, protecting the Courtyard with an unending duty, wielding greathalberds. They patrolled the courtyard, the tops of the walls, and stood vigilant near the gates inwards. It seemed that all of Halleck, his castle, his soldiers, were gargantuan, all but me.

Of Gold and Fire

Hallowed Alliance of Gold and Flame,
Will it be enough, however, to hold back the very stars?
Perhaps, indeed, the Cosmos will no longer tolerate such fervent enschacklement,
and it will drive its foes to cinders.

Halleck had welcomed I and the Foreigners into his alcazar so that we may discuss; although the topic of such talks eluded me for a great deal. Fortunately, the room in which we would reside was nestled on the ground level, so we had not needed to spend an unbearably tense amount of time in some elevator-shaft. The room into which Halleck beckoned us was grand and regal. There was a great crystal chandelier, high domed ceilings, and a variety of large cushions facing a cyclopean stone fireplace for us to sit upon. Like the rest of the castle, the predominant shades were brown, black, and soot-gray. The shaggy rug was comfortable, and purple in hue, as were the banners that depicted Halleck’s Flame, which too were draped across the walls. Halleck first, made himself comfortable on a cushion of his design, and welcomed the rest of us to sit with him in this lounging room. It was, too a significant extent, far less formal than I had expected for an event of this rarity.

Servitors offered us drinks upon wide platters, wine, beer, etc,. I declined any such fluids, in fear that it would extinguish my Flame, but Halleck and the rest of the Regals took quite large a share of their alchohols. My eyes had, at last, finally ceased their excessive constriction in the Light. It allowed me to further scan the room for peculiarities; escritoires, drawers, bookshelves, it seemed standard of so regal a lounging room. Yet, there was one incongruity two torches fastened tightly via leather straps unto the wall, burning with an orange flame. Such ramshackle constructions were confuzzling to me, for no regal Baron was to allow such profanation in their private chamber. Yet still, my mind wandered from this point when the Lords around me finished their meals.

“It has been quite some time, since thou has approached me on such dire straits,” Lord Halleck said.

“Indeed that is so, and it is a great injury to my Pride,” Gustav replied sullenly. His voice, usually loud and haughty, was soft and grieving.

“O, worry not, shall it be so that I go down there and incinerate the curs who shattered thy army?” My Majesty seemed unbothered by Gustav’s Woe; such confidence was certainly what made him kingly.

“Lord Halleck, we fear the worst,” Evulsyr, the Mangled-Corpse Lord spoke, its voice withered and hoarse, “Laksha—”

“Where?” Halleck interrupted the gangly Lord, the joviality in his voice washed away, “Gustav, Lakshadbi, how?”

“The Swamp-Cretins have harnessed the Stars, their ramshackle constructions have been bestowed Invulnerability Hexes. They destroyed a sizeable legion of fine Knights and Warmachines, we require your Flame to burn away the curses.”

The incandescent visage of Halleck sunk back into the inky abyss of his hood, for awhile he was faceless, pondering. I too, although in a less hidden manner, was cogitating; what is Lakshadbi, am I needed there?

Lord Elthin stood from his cushion and approached me, “So it is you who containeth the Flame.”

The Insectoid Lord outfurled its many-jointed arm towards my chest cavity, allured by the roaring flame of Halleck. His fingers were crustaceous, long and serrated, and they were horrid things. It seemed as though the Flame itself was calling for help, wailing, shrieking, as those claws continued towards me. I slapped its hand, almost instinctually. Or perhaps, that was an exaggeration, it was more a gentle touch, and a push downwards.

“The Flame is tender,” I said, “Be cautious around it.”

“Of course, apologies,” and the Lord did a small curtsy and turned its attention away from me.

I hoped that such uncomfortable interactions were to be few, thus far these Men were giving me more negative impressions than those that were positive. The only creature in which I saw comfort was my Lord Halleck; even the Guardian of the Flame, my forgotten comrade, was cold and uncaring of me. Perhaps, he still thought of me of an independent friend, but I had forgotten all of what he did for me. However still, Halleck was dormant, thinking, about what I did not know, I could only infer such things. But such happenings were soon to cease; and from the void of his Hood came his incandescent, sharp-toothed, smiling face.

“Alright, my friends,” Halleck said, “How large would thou estimate their legions?”

“You will help?” Gustav asked.

“Indeed, I shall. It is my debt to thee. I will bring my finest legions, and my Flame, and we shall exterminate these creatures who dare despoil fair Phantaheim.”

“Then we shall shake upon it, and it will be so?”

“Yes,” Halleck said, grabbing Gustav’s measly hand.

The automatons of Halleck were governed solely by their directive to obey Lord Halleck, and lacked the Spark of Life that he had bestowed upon I and the Guardian. So, they were vacuous things, in truth, that followed orders simply, and only showed true prowess in combat, construction, and other menial duties. They were little more than chattel slaves, intimidating ones at that, but still slaves to Halleck. Their faces were akin to their chests, akin to great blast furnaces that were haggard in their constitution. And, like their master, a white flame burnt within. Their strength was superb, despite their thin chassis, and the automatons wielded usually a variety of grand polearms. Halberds, Waraxes, Lances, weapons that were both giant and required inhuman strength to wield, thanks to their construction out of very heavy metals.

One such automaton, dressed in tattered garments, was the servitor of the Castle, acting without a weapon and somehow translocating itself throughout the chateau without a sound and in an instant. This false creature, was to become the harbringer of the coming Pact. It held out to Gustav and Halleck, in that lounge, a simple purple pillow on which sat two golden rings. One, sized for Halleck, which seemed more like a bracelet to me, and one sized for Gustave. I stood before them, as instructed by the Servitor’s imperturbable synthetic voice, to initiate the Ritual.

“Say it now.. now,” the final word of every one of the robot’s sentences was repeated as a faint echo.

“I, Harborer of the sacred White Flame, am hereby to conduct this Pact through its eternal sanctity. As such, in ultimatum I decree, that ye art to cast these gilded rings into the Fire,” the Words flew out like water.

Halleck, was first to throw his Ring into the Fire, and with a roar it was incinerated immediately. I felt the solid brass melt into a thick slag, that joined me in incandescent union. Second to follow, seemingly assured by Halleck’s lack of reluctance, too cast his ring into the fire. And the ritual, rather briefly in fact, was concluded. So, then and there, the Alliance of Gold and Flame was rekindled.

The Stratagem

Scheming, Cackling, a union of Golden Flame,
In truth, there was a megalomaniacal pox.
But alas, all are to succumb eventually.. inevitably.

It was finalized, and of great certainty, that I and a few of my fellows and my Majesty were to migrate to Phantaheim in the coming fortnight. There was a deep and low-hung fog in my Mind; still, as to what Phantaheim truly was I did not know. I thought of many different structures, great castles, sprawling villages, many things of that great sort. Too, I also imagined the nameless things which I were to incinerate through Halleck’s Flame; crawling horrors and eldritch things, defiled in their form and encrusted heavily in the nuclear slime of that death-swamp Lakshadbi. Of which, these mudfolk were to sprout, and were said by Gustav to have slaughtered hundreds effortlessly. Such horrors, made me feel infinitesimally small, even more so than I did already compared to the Giants who lived around me and saw me as their kin. I did not feel as though I was of Halleck’s sort, in truth.

They said to me that we were to marshal the forces of the castle in but a few days. That is what the Guardian said to me, “I know not if this information is confidential or not, but we are to mobilize the majority of our legions. You, I, Halleck, and the other Lords are to lead the charge.”

When I asked my Lord Halleck, he seemed incapable of recalling the finer details of the esteemed “Golden City”, so still, the Unknown lingered and loomed above me. He also told me of the Strategem that I would follow almost exactly to the letter. It was, in all honesty, a huge burden for Me; for it has been decades since I have even walked. I was in a stupor for so, so long, and I knew not if this responsibility would be the end of me.

“O Flamekeeper,” Lord Halleck said to me, “You were once a great warrior of Mine.”

I tried to remember. Alas, it seemed too that my mind was kindling for the Flame, I drew a blank. It as if I was in an emptied commune; something was there, I know indubitably, but as of now I could fine nothing of note. Just a shuffling miasmic void from which my imagination conjured horrible things and beasts beyond recognition. Things I could barely cogitate, beyond my notice, and yet still I was aware of them. Or, I would be, I had only a fortnight to prepare both myself and my possession. Not that I had many, I gave everything to the Flame, I remembered that. And I too, remembered the dire penance that which I was to be exposed to if I were to fail. Lord Halleck must have chosen me for a reason though, I had yet to fail him even once. Or so, that is what I recall.

We lounged for awhile in that room, phlegmatically blathering on all sorts of useless things. The actual importance of what we discussed had been exhausted; so we sat corpulently, with our bellies full of drink and food until nightfall. One by one the lords sat left the lounge for their sleeping quarters, first amongst them the Foreigners. Somehow, I convinced the Guardian to stop stalking me around, I implored him that I was safe, and so Halleck was last to leave. He stood at the doorway, keen as though he were petrified, watching as the other houseguests shuffled into their warrens.

“Lord Halleck,” I was interested His rather queer behavior; he did not respond for a short while, before hastily closing the doors to the room with a quick contraction of his arms.

“What is wrong, Lord Halleck?”

He gazed down to me and smiled, and hunched to his nadir to meet me face-to-face. He gave unto me in that moment two things: A black letter with swirling gilded accents, and a letter-opener for it. I knew not of the machinations of my Lord, nor did I understand his pyroclastic Will; but I was far too feeble in my composition to decline his unco parting-gift. In fact, I was slightly shooken, for what purpose was this bestowed? That enigmatic envelope glistened in the flame-light, and I gently snatched it from his gnarled hands. Halleck bowed his head and left the room.

The blade was sharp and thin, well-curved like the blades of the East, and fastened snugly to a miniature holster. I was careless in handling the blade, lesser steels could not do much to harm me, and even in my obnoxiously cloddish state I still trusted my fine motor capabilities. Within the letter was a small red note that was of spongiform texture, a customary sort of parchment in these ashy lands. Written finely in voidblack ink was the following:

Flamekeeper, your keen observations haven’t eluded me.
Pull it downwards, the misshapen torch.
And our foward-course will be unveiled.

It seemed that indeed, I had a predilection for spotting lumpy and hideous things. I knew indeed, such a misbegotten piece of architecture had no purpose in this kingdom without some sort of concomitant function; be it subtle or obtuse. I gave the torch a gentle tug downwards, resulting in a reverberant series of snapping sounds, as the leather straps unfastened from the immolated stick and whipped the fireplace. A gust of air flew downwards towards the crackling fire, immediately extinguishing it; and then a series of hydraulic pistons and mechanical appendages pushed the entire fireplace downwards into some unseen compartment. Revealing that which lurketh behind that conventionally simple piece of furniture: a thick and sturdy rusted metal door, with a window of thin fabric towards the top.

The door to a dark staircase, illuminated plainly by incandescent lights that were nailed tightly to the low ceilings. Each step was jutting outwards in an awkward manner, and the whole tunnel seemed as though it was crudely carved into the soft igneous crag. I crept silently, in fear of awakening or disturbing someone on the other end of the stairway, I knew not if I was permitted here, even if Halleck’s letter implied it so. I found myself at the bottom of the staircase, which ended sharply with a steep inclination that connected the structure to a long tunnelway ahead of me. This place was without doubt the most esoteric location I had ever perceived, and its decreptitude was haunting.

It was a labyrinthine thing, that structure, a series of chambers and long stretching halls, the walls of which were lined osseous and lined with skeletal remains. Too, did I find in these sepulchral depths many gravestones, cenotaphs, and most hauntingly it seemed that decay so thickly permeated this place that it reeked strongly of what I could only describe as rotting stone. I continued to roam, lost in the maze of mausolean antichambers, guided only by the faint luminescent of ghostflame walltorches and Halleck’s Flame bound to my heart. I found many great sarcophagi in private sectors, piles of gold and jewelry around them. Also, around me, gazing upon me with nefarious glee were half-obliterated statues of a feline constitution. Each and every one of them decimated in some unique manner, and still all of their gem-laden eyes seemed to follow me about as I patrolled without aim.

Eventually, I found for the first time a dead end in the chthonic necropolis, a hallway clogged by eroded rubble. My only way of continuing would be to jump into a damp and moist hollow that sat before the ruinous pile. It was dark, and expansive, and most worryingly it was irriguous and thickly coated in mud and clay. There was only one way down, a half-rotten latter of strong steel, gnawed at by both entrophy and the suckling mud before me. To me, it seemed as though these already infrastructurally-starved catacombs would cease entirely their semideliverance of amenities. I trusted Halleck, however, or moreso my interpretation of what he said I suppose; there was some lingering about in my mind. But I thought that proved me sane, so I took the plunge, into the abyssal slime, and prepared for whatever eldritch oubliette it would ferry me off to.

The Warren

A little ghost, perusing the darkness.
Deep, yearning umbra,
But such Darkness, mayhaps, could kindle old Flames.

When I first descended into that benthic moss-coated hollow, I sorely misunderstood its geological nature; for it was moreso an extremely deep pit or trench than anything else. Otherly infested with swamp vines, polyps, and land anenomes. The moisture is tangible, and the stone walls were slick with algal outcroppings. In fact, the inclination was so sickeningly steep that all I could do was slowly slide downwards; even if I tried to claw myself upwards, I would be met with failure, a haunting fact indeed. Perhaps, I should have rethought my choices, maybe this was a deathtrap, maybe I had doomed the Flame to an eternity of solitude as I slid down this putrescent shaft.

Much to my terror, the thin tunnel’s walls began to constrict as I further descended. Was I to clog the gap? I hoped not, I had made the injudicious decision to tell no one of this perilous excursions. Such worries were unfounded, however, instead readily devoured by an even bigger Horror. Was I too clog the gap? I hoped not, I had made the injudicious decision to tell no one of this perilous excursions. Such worries were unfounded, however, instead readily devoured by an even bigger Horror. I plummeted into a large grotto, flooded almost to its entirely, much to my felicity, Halleck’s flame was so hot that it was not to extinguished by the thalassic depths.

When I pulled myself onto a crumbling alcove I found myself in a rather startling environment. A relatively large alcove formed of some sort of soft stone like limestone or gypsum; with many great stalactites and shining geodes upon the murky bed of the water. My flame served little in illumination, but gave me the capacity to at least partially understand my environment. Most importantly, amongst which that I espied, was a rather significant aperture, almost certainly of artificial construction. For, it was protected by two unmoving sentinels: great sphinxs of porphyry that wielded gem-studded greatswords. Simple statues, thankfully, and yet they were still redolent of the obscene mire to which I would march.

Knowing now, without doubt, that Halleck’s Flame was not to extinguish in Water, I believed the correct course of action was to continue onwards and into the quadrangular fissure. I plunged into the pool, expecting something of a deep oceanic lake, but instead I humorously realized that the water only went up to my waist. My flailing about, in hindsight, was rather embarrassing in such depthless a hypogeal natatorium. The water had an icechill which I did not enjoy in the slightest, especially as it marinated my armor. Indeed, too, did the water reek of a spiteful and repulsive fragrancy.

The arduous process of hefting myself skyward onto an effulgently arcuate precipice, especially while adorned with the weight of the Flame and my plates, was enough to at last knock the wind from me. I took a moment to suspire and cerebrate; I still knew not of where I was, the bloated catacombs were boundless, and I foolishly proceded without any form of equipment, and for that I transgression I am ensnared in a tomb of rock. Fortuitously, I still had two weeks left until we departed, and at the very least I was not completely deadended. I knew not if my optimism would prevail, in truth.

The aperture aggrandized into a large makeshift shaft. Which was, startingly, supported exclusively by strips of putrifying birch, and this grim revelation almost certainly hastened my step a tad. The silence which I had before disturbed had returned, only subtle interrupted by the cracking of the supportbeams and the occaisonal splatter of a gobbet of water. My footsteps were slow and without pause. This was evidently, once, a mine, now left to decay. I was certain that below the castle, an equally sprawling minesystem did still exist, to extract the material to continue our expansion; but this place was not it, this place was primitive and lacked the industrial of the foundry-districts of the Kingdom. Still, it was peculiar that it readily connected to the catacombs below, almost equally as sprawling, in nature, to these very mines. I assumed it as a fluke in construction, or a process of erosion which coincidentally commingled the two sets of infrastructure.

Ultimately, the path grew narrower until eventually what resembled a grand chthonic canyon was not anything more than a simple fissure; and eventually even then my path became more muddled as the shaft bifurcated into two paths. I was befuzzled, as I feared that if I treaded down an unsavory path, I may, like I did in the catacombs, find myself incapable of backtracking. The air grew cold around me, exceedingly cold, far higher in frigidity than I previously assessed. Most disturbingly of all, I saw in the distance some kind of tall figure, poking quietly around the corner. And while fog hazed my few of the organism, I could still delineate its haggardly form. I honed the light of the Flame into a luminescent, cylindrical shape that penetrated the umbra of the deep chasm.

It was but a piece of debris, that drooped downwards like a hunched geezer against the moist rock. It was a distorted long indeed, haunting in its form but alas still standard in its congruity. I sighed, my trepidation waning for the first time.



What stood before me was a creature of marcescent composition, nearly as tall as I, formed entirely of interwoven tendrils of raw, exposed flesh. Imprinted into its soft corpus were indentations, peculiarly akin in their pattern and shape to that of my armor. Its head was small and lumpy, flowing with rotting hair, and it looked as though it was ripped out of something.

“Who are you!” I yelled in terror.

“Be at peace,” the Creature’s voice was stridulant.

“What would a hideous thing such as you be but a beguiler?” I asked.

“You do not recognize the marks upon my flesh? I was your progenitor!”

I was mute, in that moment. Every limn that I had ever heard specifically mentioned the death of a failing Flamekeeper. That was their penance, in fact, I did not truly trust the spindlefiend.

“We of the Flame who let it die are sealed in these Mines.”


“So that we may cogitate, for the rest of our days, of our failures; so that we may feel forever the pain of lacking the consecrated armor.”

My panoply was a bulwark, that protected my bulk from the agonies of the outside world. In fact, I had never seen myself without my suit, and so to see one of my kind stripped bare was haunting. And indeed, he was a short thing, without his armor, and which was moreso a mould now that I realize. My progenitor was like a sarcous bundle of rope, and he was unraveling. He crawled upon many tentacles, smooth and slippery, and his torso was falling apart as the tendrils let go of each other. Horror.

I felt large, for the first time.

“Is that the Flame?” Its, no, His eyes were black and clouded, beady like those of a bug’s.


“May I feel its warmth.. again?”

His hand had bifurcated into two fleshy ribbons, that tapered into shriveled whiskers. It was soft and flaccid, and sagged dismally as the slimy dermis was illuminated. I elected to do nothing about his strange actions, it seemed to me that he was at his strongest a sad sack of flesh. If need be, to be frank, I would beat the shit out of him. But I deemed such clobbering unnecessary, it never got any closer with any other appendage.

“O, Flame of Halleck, I am so.. deeply sorry for my transgressions against thee. Flamekeeper, I need not your sympathy, I am certain this place offers an escape of sorts.”

His posture was crestfallen, as a result of his sorrow or the inevitable crumbling of his spine, or both. Still, as he crept back into the darkness, I myself became sullen. This poor, forlorn creature, shunned for at least as long as I was Flamekeeper. My Progenitor, forced to face the darkness for an eternity. Such shame I could not bear.

“Come with me, we will find ourselves a way out,” I outstretched my hand to the vermiforme.

“What.. no..”

“You have suffered long enough, I will take Halleck’s ire for you.”

“Is this so?”

“Yes, come, and we can both see the Sun again.”

The Ferryman

It is He who ferries the Flamekeeper to safety,
Such a conundrum, the Withered and the Spry,
Freed each other both from their prisons.

Our escape was something dreamt of for hours, days, weeks? At this point, to ascertain such a timescale was to only tumefy the vaporous mist that preventing my Mind from ratiocination. It was a quiet place, only made semiobstreporous through the hushed flapping of the occasional flying amblypygid, or the detestably repetitive dripping of fluids from denticulated stalactites. However still, the bilious gasps of the old Flamekeeper actuated me to continue onwards. I could think of no other time in which I was this virtuous, so effervescently pleased to do anything. Still, I felt that I was not to be too kindly when I was to travel to that ghoulish swamp of Lakshadbi, indeed, I thought of desertion for but a picosecond. Alas, I thought then of Halleck, and the disappointment he would exude, and too, I thought of the grotesque daemons which we would send for my hide. I knew now, that my Lord Halleck was significantly more detestable than I was once thought, and yet still he was redolent to me of warmth, strength, and wisdom.

Cutting through the darkness in almost an instant was some ovular pearlescence, so finely consistent and honed in its shape that I assumed it to be external illumination. As I ran, the ever-deviating crags of the great mineshaft began to metamorphose into a cleanly carved structure. Which, upon further inspection, resembled that of the interior of a gothic cathedral, ancient and grand, so much so in fact that it was greatly reminiscent of great stories I had read before succumbing to this conundrum. Pews, carved ornately with floral patterns, although mold-encumbered, polluted the cave with a malodorous stench. Indeed, too, were there stained glass windows, plastered with hateful imagery. And, like the rest of the Church, partially consumed by the cave itself, as though this place had been translocated here.

Too, was it, ominously long and obtuse. It was still an endless long hallwaay, still grotesquely saturated with a feeling of subconscious trepidation that sat comfortably at the back of Mind. Alas, to the elder on my back, such things were indeed soporific, for the creature had seemingly fell into a deep slumber, tightly locked upon my back. After what seemed like miles of walking, I did eventually find the end of the church, solid walls of cyclopean masonry. Decorated by erosion and great fissures, and most pressingly a cuboidal aperture which I could fit through. Of course, irkingly so, the gaping hole was sealed off by iron bars. Past the Church, I realized, was the Castle of Halleck; its depot, to be specific, and the barred window led unto a bridgeway high above.

The depot was a gargantuan foundry-thing, hundreds of miles in height and width, to fit many gladiatorial arenas, industrial zones foundries, parking spaces, and gantries. It was the seedbed of Halleck’s military might, and so too did it fuel his infrastructure and production. It was the largest part of the Castle, taking up half of Halleck’s Mountain and being capable of fitting in it a large asteroid. A great factory, it was, and down below I could see thousands of automatons in formation, and the vague silhouette of Halleck. Too, could I see, that its fathomless gates were open, and the path to Phantaheim was visible. I banged on the dreaded oriel, desperate, hoping that some servitor was patrolling the mazelike latticework of upper suspension bridges. I was far too high in the sky for anyone on the floor to hear me, and no all automatons were beckoned to the bottom of Halleck’s Depot for their martial duties. It seemed, that I was done. I, and the Flame, were trapped eternally in some loathsome cathedral.

I felt a pooling of black fog, which titillated my legs, it seemed as though it fetidly seeped through the cracks in the masonry, and especially the stone oriel. The onyx miasma was rather vociferous; and from it came whispers, moans, whimpers, clutching sounds and other gelatinous vocalizations I could hardly fathom let alone describe. Both intrigued and timorous, I slowly stood from my squatted position and fretfully peaked through the window that looked soullessly at the Depot’s bridgenetwork. I did not see metal. I saw Flesh.

A tripartite face stared back at me, standing upon the bridge at a great height, clearly it was either bent over or severely crooked. I looked upon it with great horror, that shuffling, crawling thing, that seemed to be commingled entirely of carcasses. It exuded from all orifices a great obsidian fog, that rolled down its body and veiled all but its face from my view. Its cacadaemoniacal visage was perforated, degloved, and above all else fathomless in its expressions. For its face was a blank hole, from which clutching appendages reached, clawing and feeling about; as if they too, were trying to escape. I nictated, perhaps this was a hallucination, but it was for naught, for the foul necrobeast remained.

“Be gone, fiend!” I yelled, awaking the elder latched to my back, “I harness within me the power of Halleck’s Flame!”

It was an obscene, a satanic thing, so effortlessly unfathomable that its mere presence would lesser Men to hurl themselves from the high bridges upon which it stood. Accursed is he whom, is subjected to the horrific torture of sighting so ghastly a thing. Despite its head being nothing more than an irregular globe, and its face lacking nothing more than those closely-packed perforations, it seemed to laugh. Or so, that is what I thought, I could feel its energy, its malice, its joviality. Yet, the sounds that it bellowed forth were so effulgently unnatural that it was crazily maniacal that I could even perceive them. It was fetid, sadistic, sepulchral, in its low-pitched utterations.

From the vaporous Fog that obnubilated its figure came three greatarms, seemingly jointless, as they moved like snakes. They slithered from the bottom of the pestilential creature’s bulk towards my oriel, I recoiled in Fear of such profanation, as the beast’s necroappendages seized the bars that incarcerated me. With a mighty tug and a foetid grunt, it avulsed the iron rods from their place. The way out was clear, but I could not move, for it was so impeccably putrid that no Soul would dare fight the awesome paralysis of this Demonic Consciousness.

It gestured me towards itself, before every aspect of the creature slithered back into the hideous Fog from whenst it came. Too, did that stygian effluvium vanish, and the Wretch was gone; as was the aura of sheer ineffable tribulation that afflicted me like an evil pox.

Second March to Lakshadbi

Second March to Lakshadbi,
He marcheth along the great path deemed sacrosanct.
Halleck, and Gustav, vassals of Light.

The horrid abomination that skulked the Depot was among the forefront of the complaints that I made to Lord Halleck. How could something that putrid be tolerated on Halleck’s sacred martial grounds, and how could a fiend of such insane scale and presence not be seen. Halleck, however, was more infatuated on that old Flamekeeper. And too, was he intrigued with my apparent bravery in descending those old catacombs.

“The horrors you will face at Lakshadbi will be no worse than those you faced in the Catacombs.”

I suppose he said that to alleviate my apprehension, but still an unfounded dread saturated my being. The Old Flamekeeper was taken away by two great-automatons, and I knew not of his status. I believe that I was not to know of it until after our conflict. That was, assuming Halleck consented to me fathoming it in the first place. My expedition into the catacombs shed light on his eccentric and at times apathetic character; and it certainly fettered my love for him a tad. Of course, I could not let that impede me, I may be Flamekeeper but he is Flame Incarnate. I knew better than to question his will. The legions of Halleck marched across this mammoth path, seemingly miles wide and long. The path to Lakshadbi was about as large as the floorspace of the Depot, and fit snugly within its confines was the entirety of Halleck’s legions.

Gustav and his Lords told us that we were to rendezvous with the armies of Phantaheim Proper around the middle-point of our journey across this leviathan-path. In the meanwhile, it was so that the Legions of Halleck would channel their morale into a shanty. The Song of Halleck: a guttural anthem, sung in the mechanical-tongue of his automatons. I could barely decipher it, but it was a jovial anthem, patriotic and confrontative. The lyrics were beyond that which could be described, even if I wrote them in the language in which they were initially sung.

Our milita was predominantly based upon genuine footsoldiers, and the majority of our warmachines were long-ranged artillery or machines designed to transport high quantities of troops quickly. Ranged soldiers were generally equipped with many-nozzled weapons that were to spew Halleck’s Flame. Too did our artillery fire gobbets of the Inferno, as did the majority of the shocktroopers who were to shatter Lakshadbi’s front line. That was where my responsibility came into play; I was to channel the Flame so that it could be used at zenith potential by the foottroopers of Halleck.

The barons of Halleck’s kingdom, nameless machines of seemingly ineffable wisdom and booned with peculiar sapience, sat with Halleck atop the great Phrymecium. It was a gargantuan machine, about the size of a small town, which remained connected to the mountain of Halleck and the castle. It was an effulgent thing, that would separate from Halleck’s mountain to serve as a motile command & control center when needed. I knew now why Gustav pleaded to Lord Halleck, and not any other closer neighbor. I sat with the opulent council, sitting with Gustav, waiting patiently and anxiously for something to happen. The stone cat lord was a queer creature, always thinking, always pondering, interpreting every outcome. We were subject to the amenities of kings atop the Phrymecium, scrumptious nourishment and vodka from gilded casks.

Gustav told me of the outcome of the First Attack on Lakshadbi, and the miserable failure that had come of it. The forces that assailed the gates of the swamp failed to detect the invulnerability hexes of the defensive structures; and lacked the capacity to exorcize them. Which made the seige ultimately impossible without air support, something that the legion lacked. Too, did the legions rely mostly on superior ranged firepower from warmachines, something completely nullified by the superb defenses of Lakshadbi. The singular valley-gate into Lakshadbi was well defended, and the gulch was deserted near the midway point of the skirmish. The sorrounding plateaus were equally gobsmacked, as the Greatsoldiers of Lakshadbi, horrid and unspeakable things I had hitherto never heard of, were severely underestimated. The subsequent mass-destruction of multiple frontlines resulted in catastrophic losses; and the retreating forces were extremely mutilated as a result.

The forces of Lakshadbi were lesser in number than those of our legions, but impeccably durable. We lacked airsupport, too, which would make entry into the swamp impossible if Halleck’s Flame failed to cause adequate damage to their defenses. The abhorred beasts of Lakshadbi simply outmatched the majority of Phantaheim’s soliders; indeed, these contemptible abominations were about the size of the automatons of Halleck. Even with this extensive knowledge and retrospection, we were still entirely unaware of the shuffling horrors that lurked within the swamp itself. Nor were we capable of acquiring intel on the matter. In the most favorable of outcomes, Lakshadbi would surrender upon the destruction of their defenses. Personally, however, I declined to believe in such a theorem. Relentless and loathsome creatures such as these were almost certainly much too prideful to surrender. The battle, I dreaded, would be painfully long and bloody.

It was within two weeks that we at last communed with the forces of Phantaheim. Which were immense in size, and whose armies were rallied in vast ringshaped legions. The legions of Phantaheim were most predominantly knights and calvalry, with a lesser quantity of highly sophisticated warmachines. The foundrymen of Lord Halleck towered over them; it is no wonder that these Men were obliterated by the Greatsoldiers. Battleplans discussing the general stratagem with which we would beseige Lakshadbi were hasty. We feared that as Lakshadbi grew in strength, it could counterattack against Phantaheim, and any warmachine of significant size with an invulnerability hex would ravage the citadel.

The battleplan was of general simplicity: the Phantaheim Legions would follow behind the Men of Halleck during the initial charge. The superior firepower we administered would allow the smaller, faster, and more dexterous Men of Phantaheim to destroy the embankments. The psionic horrors would likely be repelled by the Flame, and the Greatsoldiers would crumble against the Automatons. Most respledently, Halleck and Gustav would physically lead the charge upon the frontlines. It was my duty, from the Phrymecium, to tend to the Flame, so that the weaponry of Halleck’s Knights would incinerate the swampmen. Halleck seemed prideful in the stratagem, but I, ever the overthinker, felt hesitant in its success.

“Sire, maymaps we shan’t undergo such a quickmade plan?”

Halleck, with his fiery laugh, comforted me in a way, “We know not of what lies within the Swamp. But we do know, with great certainty, of what lies without, and that is the Flame and its strength. Contained within you is godgiven might, something that these abominable fiends lack.”


Karkinos, one of the great and wrahful Verdugos; unstoppable monstrosities of little wit with immense durability and strength. It is through some accursed means that this one, one of the most ancient of them all, acquired intellect far beyond that of even the greatest scholar. And so now, it is He that leads Lakshadbi into battle. Our attack is said by Gustav and Halleck to be so swift that in the time it would take for him to awaken, we’d have claimed most of the territory in the swamp. Estimations state that we are of far greater number than those of Lakshadbi, and the second the gulch is breached and Lakshadbi is seiged proper, the swampmen’s frontlines are sure to crumble.

The Phrymecium stood resplendent over the vast aggregate of armadas. So large was it in fact that the very shadow it cast eclipsed the very Sun. While the Men of the Army sung, I sat chattering anxiously. For I was soon to depart the Phrymecium with Gustav and Halleck, and fronthead the assailment against Lakshadbi. I knew not of what horrors I would face, and I was assured I would indulge in no firsthand skirmishes. But the volatilility of war was one of the few things that echoed through my empty head. It was when my creaking boots landed upon the algal soil of the fields just ahead of Lakshadbi that I knew the Cataclysm had come. Their towers stood strong ahead, and from the distance I could see their forces gathering.

We approached, slowly still, gathering the forces in great rallies and sessions of prayers. From the Phrymecium’s greatsirens came shanties and tunes to motivate the soldiers. They chanted and laughed, as if this day was not the End of most things. I could not fathom it; the joviality, and I took it upon myself to quiz some of the burlier knights.

“Sir, there is but one thing worth fighting for in this world. Your home, and there is no day better than Today to die for it.”

I knew then of my purpose. Halleck’s Flame rippled and upsurged. I reached my hands into the cavity and pulled from it that heaving glob of magmatic fury: Halleck’s Flame, that gelatinous thing, incandescent with a supernatural heat. I began to channel, I put my every thought into it, as the cinder became a corona — the guidelight for the soldiers of the Legions. It was then that, as the projectiles came — huge, heaving globs of starlight — I knew the battle had begun. The sirens, great and choral, sung of the song of battle: a rhythmic wailing. Soldiers of the Union began their charge into battle, as did Halleck, Gustav, and Thumathin upon his cockroach-ferried carriage. From the gates came legions upon legions of shuffling horrors, the Greatsoldiers of Lakshadbi. There was no doubt that we had underestimated their numbers.

The frontline, a serpentine mass of meat and metal, was ruptured by the hurled projectiles of White Fire and Starlight which came raucously from both sides. The Automatons of Halleck, with their greathammers and halberds, were almost a match for the hulking Greatsoldiers. Indeed, their swampman strength, savage and furious, caused a significantly higher amount of casualties than previously anticipated. The calvalry was protected by a bulwark of living metal; but even the strongest of shields did not protect from the psionic horrors. Who flung even the largest units about like ragdolls, using them as projectiles to destroy precious artillery.

Gobbets of the Sacred Flame effulgently swept over the impermeable shields of the tower-structures. Melting through them and incinerating the panicked soldiers atop. Indeed, their defense was faltering, but their soldiers were of far greater strength than even Halleck could infer. Indeed, he struggled in battle against great theropods with bladed tails, covered in swamp moss with hoods of flesh. They were ghastly things, whose swordsmanship was shockingly superb, and even through the power of the Flame he did not fully succeed.

Gustav, in righteous fury and flashes of golden light, extirpated massive heaps of soldiers with the might of his hammer. Every shockwave sent beasts flying, and he alone could battle batalions of the Greatsoldiers. In a beam of auric lightning, the primary gate into Lakshadbi detonated with sacred force. The resulting deluge of militiamen overwhelmed the psionic terrors that served as sentinels, and soon that telepathic legion was to fall. Still, Gustav was focused exclusively on the battlegrounds on the perimeter of Lakshadbi. For the swampmen had begun to falter and retreat, the assault was a success.

Evulsyr, who flew from the heavens and exuded biotoxins upon the beasts, was first to lead the charge into the mucklands of Lakshadbi. Gustav was soon to follow, as was I, for the Flame could not spread its capabilities over so long a distance over so many a legion. Halleck, finished with his skirmish, too followed into the Swamps. Alongside a torrent of carcasses, fleeing swampmen, and battlecrazed knights. By the end of the Second Perimeter Assault, the psionic horrors were all but extinct, and the Greatsoldiers fled. The battle was not over yet, on the outside, however. For many holdouts still remained, lesser towerwatchers who shot feebly from their cover. They were quick to kill independently, but their positions made things difficult.

I, Halleck, Gustav, and Evulsyr would continue onwards into the Swamp while the remaining militalords were to secure the perimeter. For all I knew, Lakshadbi had fallen at last. Everything, it seemed, was going to plan. That was, until, entire legions began to falter. Automatons, Warmachines, knights, and even Halleck and Gustav were launched at immense speeds. Such power, was not of this World, and indeed it came not from a legion of psionic magicians, but instead it was the machination of Verdugo Karkinos.

It was a great arachnoid thing, about double the size of Halleck, with gargantuan chelicarae, a plump and spined abdomen, and a time-worn carapace. Whose antenna were as long as its bulk, and were its primary grasping appendages. Indeed, held in one of such feelers was a severed appendage of its own body, that it used to conjure its magicks. It did not walk, nor did it fly, but instead it climbed through the air on transluscent threads that demanifested as it relocated. The beast was unfathomably wise, and it stood upon an edifice of gargantuan trepidation. Its aura, ever-present and all-encompassing, made even Halleck tremble in fear for but a moment.

It was omnipotent and overwhelmed my mind, and its voice was eloquent for so abominable a beast, “Have you come to dismantle all I have created?”

“Blasphemer beast! Your profanation ends here. Yield so that we may bless this place with the grace of gold!”

“I saw your legions descend upon my domain, and I saw them fall. I will brook thee no quarter,” the abomination clicked its mandibles.

“Halleck!” I yelled.

A deluge of fire bellowed from Halleck’s hands. The power of His Flame was unending, ravenous, and it flew in a pressurized stream towards the abomination. The arachnid almost seemed to laugh, as through the power of starlight, it parried the Flame. It was unburnt; a feat so great that I stood aghast.

“We must retreat!” I yelled.

“No!” Gustav slammed his hammer against the ground, “We fight for Lakshadbi!”

“You fight for a cause long obliterated,” the horrid Verdugo was in close quarters with Halleck, and too was its melee prowess awesome.

Our occupation of Lakshadbi’s perimeter gave us little adavantage as the swampmen regrouped. Legions of boneblade-theropods, telekinetic magicians, greatsoldiers, and gaunt marksman descended upon us. Their leader, who now fought three Lords simultaneously, had reinvigorated morale of the Swampmen. Our legions, dazed or dead from the monolithic distance they’d been blasted, struggled to fight against the forces of Lakshadbi. Alas, what was at one point a victory locked into a gruesome stalemate. Perhaps the largest on all of Jhuni. And most horrific of all were the twin unfathomed abominations that arose from the muck; so large that they dwarfed even the Phrymecium.

Their bodies were nebulous, formed of swirling cosmic energies, compacting into tightly-packed planetoids of klaleidoscopic hue. Their faces, eldritch and abominable, were like skulls, manipulated jarringly by the swirling nebulae. Spindly things they were, and with every slash of a gaunt appendage a thousand Men would be sent to their doom. Meteories rained down from the sky in a fiery torrent, and it was soon that even the steadfast legions of Phantaheim began to falter and retreat. The armies of the star-blessed swamp drove many of Phantaheim’s scion-legions from Lakshadbi; killing many more than those that retreated.

The Sacrifice

I stood alone against this horrid beast. Never did I think that the legions of Holy Phantaheim would be torn asunder with the effortless haste that they were on this day — Halleck had been all but incapacitated, Evulsyr was wounded and grounded, and it was only Me against that wretch. Verdugo Karkinos. My hammer clashed with its appendage-staff, surprisingly durable, and despite the creature’s immense size it dueled with the agility of a dancer. It far outmatched me, physically, and perhaps mentally too. I never knew that I would be humbled in so putrescent a place.

“Are you tired yet, Gustav?”

“You know of my name?”

“I know plenty of you knights, I know enough about you to know how to drag you off your high horse!”

I knew what needed to be done, as I locked horns with this accursed wretch. These things could not be annexed, or even killed. Verdugo Karkinos and the fathomless legions that followed. I raised my hammer against my arm. With one fell swoop it was detached, the adrenaline coursing through me extirpated my pain. Gold oozed into the sorrounding waters, and Karkinos stood before me, laughing.

“Are we resorting to seppuku now?”

If it was Holy Phantaheim that I was to sacrifice myself for — Holy Phantaheim and all its fruits — every child, every Man, every valiant knight that died in this Swamp for my kingdom. No Man of Phantaheim, No Man of Halleck, No Creature is deserving of the fate that befalls them should Verdugo Karkinos descend upon Jhuni in an unholy crusade. No such thing should ever occur; I looked down upon my arm, that slowly disintegrating thing. I was like Karkinos, in a way, sacrificng a very limb for the power I required. And that power, and what I used it for, was to change the battle.

I raised it into the sky, and screamed with the strength of my fallen kin the barbarous words:

“O Eip banit yia fuln, ali dre dekdral fier dre hens, bialn fer ea som hire. Vina ulnirnudr!”

The arm rose into the heavens, detonating into a cloud of gold. That cloud melted into itself, forming a vortex, a siphoning and all-consuming vortex. Verdugo Karkinos shrieked, it attempted to swipe at me before falling into the auric gateway. As did the remainder of his forces, who fought savagely to stay upon the ground. So too did his starformed abominations fall, and his greatsoldiers and towerwatchers and all the accursed swampmen in his service. And when that portal closed, I stared upon my shoulder, where my arm once was, and I knew with certainty that my sacrifice was not in vain.

“Come, Gustav,” Halleck put a hand upon my shoulder, followed closely behind as always by his Flamekeeper, “I will wrap your wounds.”

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