Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 6 begins

Chapter 6: Trudging Towards Destiny

Scene 1 : Meeting Cedical

Hindral gazed up at the small human female, impressed by the size of her mount.
“So who are you supposed to be?”
The young woman played a few notes on her dulcimer, Cedical Basian.
“Did I just hear that right? Did her instrument just say her name?” Hindral looked back at her companions in confusion.
Yes, Cedical plucked a couple more strings.
“But how? Thatis impossible!” Hindral stepped closer as the white stag pawed the earth and begin to graze calmly.
The Great Oghma taught me. I am mute. He taught me a great many things…
“”This is incredible! I’m not sure how that is even possible but-”
“Did you say the Great Oghma taught you?” Kilabra looked at Cedical quizzically.
Yes, but there’s no time to explain.
“Why?”
Cedical pointed toward the forest where a pack of dire lynxes with distinctive glowing red eyes were slinking towards them. Denzred swiftly drew his long sword as Kilabra set herself ready for the oncoming attack with her bronze estocs at the ready.
Hindral took a step back as she whispered,”Oh shi-”
The wolves leapt…

Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 5 concludes

Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…

Scene 5 : A Choice without Choice

Denzred gazed at Gramstaf in disbelief for a few moments…then burst into gales of laughter. He took deep breaths as he tried to control himself and wiped a tear of mirth from his cheek.
“Ok, let me get this straight, priest. Satan, the Prince of Darkness, the Fallen One, the Great Deceiver, wants the holiest of holy relics, the Holy Grail, the cup that bore the blood of Christ?”
“Yes he does.”
Denzred looked at Gramstaf as if he had just grown a second head.
“And how, pray tell, will this possibly help him? I assume it would destroy the Adversary if he got near it.”
“My dear Denzred, you are correct that it would destroy him. But Lucifer has many servants willing to bear this holy burden for him.”
“Fine, but what use is an object that holy to a being of pure Evil?”
“Well now we get to the true purpose of this gathering, lad. You see, he will corrupt the Grail with the blood of an unrepentant sinner. A mortal that is beyond the pale. And then all the servants of Satan have to do is take the cup for a walk. And keep walking. If he can accomplish this then he can erase the connection between mortals and their Gods wherever the Cup travels. The only gods that would retain a connection to the World would be those as evil as Satan himself, and there are very few of those. The World would become as damned as Hell itself.”
As he spoke the music swelled even further, closer now. The three with Gramstaf were now looking around as they wondered at the source of the beautiful melody.
“But the Grail has been lost for centuries, priest. No one knows where its final resting place is, since it was lost during the final defeat of the original High King Arthur.”
“Yes, it took Satan this long to track it down. I did say immortals take the long view. If it wasn’t for EGL taking up residence inside my skull there would be no one to oppose his forces. We only have this one chance to stop the Evil One in his plans. The Gods have chosen us to be their saviours.”
“Pfft, I am no one’s saviour, mortal. I only wish to regain my place within the Unseelie Court and that means killing this bloodthirsty Man, not rush off on some fool quest with you.” Kilabra pointed her bronze blade menacingly at Denzred as she spoke.
“Grammy, I have to agree. I was swallowed and puked up by a big fish. No gods were involved in that.” Hindral spun her finger in a circle next to her head as she pointed at Gramstaf.
“And I am beyond redemption, priest. God would never choose one with so much blood on his hands to represent Him. I deserve the death this Fay wishes upon me.”
Gramstaf slammed the butt of his staff on the ground, sending a shower of sparks floating upwards from the fire. Then he pointed a bony finger at each of them in turn.
“Enough! Hindral Smik do you think you would have survived that kraken without the help of Aegir? Kilabra Dalsinien, the Trions did not send you here to slay this man. Your only hope of returning to the Court in honour is by saving the Tuatha de Danaan. And you, Denzred, you will do this or you will suffer in eternity in Hell for the crimes you have committed. This is your only chance at redemption! If you three do not help me then you have doomed the World for eternity!” Gramstaf scowled at them, EGL smirking inwardly knowing he had forced him to commit a single lie.
Before any of them could think of a response to this sudden outburst, the music suddenly ceased as an enormous eighteen-point pure white stag stepped from the trees at the edge of the forest. A slight red-haired girl astride it holding a dulcimer as she looked at them defiantly.
“Now what new happy crappy is this, Miss Smik?” Hindral muttered to herself as she looked on with amazement shared with Denzred and Kilabra.

Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 5 continues…

Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…

Scene 4 : Nero’s Deal with the Devil

As Gramstaf resumed his tale Kilabra swore she could hear a quiet melody float to them on the night breeze.
“Each Pantheon created humans within their own domain, and from there Man spread forth into the World. God was going to create his mortals in the Cradle of Civilization but before He did that, He performed a test and created a symbol. He gave free will to one of his Angels, Samiel.”
“Hold on priest, I studied hagiography in seminary before becoming a knight. This angel sounds important, you would think he would have been listed in the ancient texts.” Denzred raised a skeptical eyebrow as he spoke.
“Oh thats because God gave him a new name. The Jews know him as Lucifer. We Christians call him…Satan. Needless to say things did not go well for poor Samiel. He immediately threw off the yoke of God and thus became the Fallen One. He plummeted to Hell to reside there for Eternity. God had done this with the foreknowledge that this would happen. Satan was created as a warning …a symbol of unfettered free will without morals or ethics. At least that was the Plan. In a world without other gods that may have become the final resting place of Satan. But Satan is the Great Deceiver, and he schemed to find a way to escape and take his place beside God as His equal…or His better.”
Gramstaf stopped talking and looked up into the darkness surrounding the fire as the hint of a smile played across his lips.
“Grammy, what’s the hold up? This tale is just getting good.” Hindral tugged on Gramstaf’s sleeve to get his attention.
“Hmm? Oh yes, of course. As I was saying, Satan kept looking for a way out of Hell. This went on for millennia, there were many unsuccessful attempts. Some were thwarted by God, others by mortals. But that never stopped him from trying again. Immortals always take the long view when it comes to their plans.” Gramstaf glanced at Kilabra as he spoke. Kilabra stared back inscrutably.
“Ironically, Satan’s best chance was brought about by the success of Christianity and Judaism. The Jews replaced the Egyptian Pantheon with their own faith, and did the same to many of the minor Pantheons…Sumeria, Babylon, and Phoenicia for example…Marduk, Baal Hammon, Bel, Tanit and Astarte. Then with the birth of Jesus Christ, Christianity was brought to the heart of the Roman Empire. This destabilized the power of the Roman Pantheon and the Empire began to fall apart. Its borders shrinking back year after year. By the time of Emperor Nero the Empire occupied only the Italian Peninsula. The barbarians were ready to invade and sack Rome, erasing the Empire and the Gods along with them. That was Satan’s chance to strike. He petitioned Jupiter, he laid forth a bargain in which as long as Nero lived the Roman Empire would remain whole. Never to attain its former greatness but also never to shrink either. All he wished in return was that he be made the God of Evil and Debauchery. Jupiter looked down upon the ravening hordes marching down the Appian Way towards His greatest city and agreed… on pain of throwing Satan back to Hell himself. Satan descended from Olympus and stood before Nero in all his dark angelic glory and bequeathed upon him eternal life. Nero can never die…from age or disease or injury. In return Nero gave Satan the grandest temple in the center of Rome to be worshipped by all those that count themselves Roman citizens. ‘Til this very day Nero sits upon his Golden Throne and across the Grand Plaza Satan sits upon his Obsidian Throne.”
Gramstaf shuddered at the mental image that EGL had conjured for him at those words. As he spoke, the music had gotten loud enough for Hindral and Denzred to notice. Its soothing melody flowed over all of them like a cooling spring breeze and they felt no need to be concerned for its presence.
“Well, priest this had been a truly depressing tale but what does any of this have to do with we three, or you for that matter?”
“Denzred, do you honestly think that Satan would be satisfied with just Rome or his newfound godhood? No, the Prince of Darkness wants the World for himself. And he has found the means to do so…the Holy Grail.”

Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 5 continues…

Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…

Scene 3 : How the World Began

“Before anything, there was the Void. The nothingness was infinite and eternal, filled with Demons. All was formless and without change, until suddenly and without warning form and change occurred. The Gods came into being and with awareness came desires. These desires are beyond human ken, they are the needs and wants that our’s are a pale reflection of. They desired to create, to destroy, to love, to hate…and in so doing they willed the World into existence. For without a place to be, they cannot create…or destroy. The Gods did not come into being all at once but in groups, we know them as the various pantheons…Celtic, Norse, Roman, Greek, and Christian. They only created the World in pieces, suspended within the Void. When the Pantheons encountered each other they fought, they warred upon one another using incomprehensible energies to destroy vast expanses of space, time and void. They slowly came to the dawning realization that they were truly eternal, they could not eradicate each other but they could destroy each other’s realms. After eons of this seemingly endless war they had exhausted this desire, to destroy each other. Thus The Great Accord came into being; a pact that brought a lasting peace and also brought the pieces of the World together. The Gods looked down upon what they had wrought and were pleased.
But then they realized this place was without purpose…empty. So each Pantheon set about creating creatures that embodied themselves. The Tuatha De Danaan created the Fey; the Norse created the Dwarves, Alfar, and Svirfneblin; the Greeks created numerous races – the Centaurs, Satyrs, Tritons, Nymphs, etc etc. And God created the Angels. All of these beings were either immortal or close to it and served their Gods faithfully. But even then the Gods became bored, they realized that they had no challenges or challengers. Their existences lacked purpose and so they had nothing to strive for.
The Pantheons met once more and expanded upon the Great Accord. They decided to create mortals, creatures that had free will and could choose which God or Gods to follow of their own accord. They imbued these creatures with a specialness like no other before them. These creatures would increase the power of the God they worshipped, the greater the number that worshipped a God the more power and prestige that deity accrued. They had created Man.”
The three; the Man, the Fey, and the Svirfneblin sat in stunned disbelief. Their view of the world lay shattered by what Gramstaf had already told them.
“My friends, I understand how shocking this must all seem. But it gets worse…”

Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 5 continues…

Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…

Scene 2 : Explanations at Knifepoint

“Kilabra is correct, EGL is a Demon of the Void. But you have to understand that there are more Demons of the Void than there are stars in the sky. If they ever escaped their prison en masse they would fill the universe up. And because of this sheer number not all of them are truly Evil.”
“Not truly Evil? What, some of them are only a little bit Evil? A smidge Evil perhaps?” Hindral smirked again as she watched Gramstaf shifting uncomfortably on his log.
“You see, dear Hindral, the Demons of the Void have a multiplicity of forms. In all there infinite number there are no two that look alike. But EGL is a member of The Empty. The Empty have no form whatsoever, they are without form or substance, creatures of pure mind and will. They are not Evil, they are cursed.”
The trio watching him had varying degrees of disbelief in their expressions. Still uncertain whether to kill him outright or just leave the poor insane fool here in the middle of the wilderness.
“I can tell by your looks that you don’t believe me. How could ineffable Evil not be Evil but instead be cursed? I know it sounds like the ravings of a madman.'”
“That’s a fair assessment, priest.” Kilabra cracked wise.
“Kilabra, you have to understand one thing about being noncorporeal, the crux of being without form… You cannot touch….or taste…or feel anything….forever. The only means to that end is through possession. They take control of a mortal and ride that body until it gives out, then they move onto the next. They do not hate mortals, they need them.”
“Okay, so they don’t want to end us all. But that doesn’t sound like much of an improvement, being possessed for the rest of your life, unable to control anything you do. Sounds like a form of personal Hell in fact.” Denzred finally spoke up from the depths of his despair, even he was becoming curious about this ridiculous situation.
“But that begs the question, how is it that  you still have control, Prelate?”
“EGL made the mistake of becoming embedded in an ancient Sumerian scroll-trap, laid specifically to pull in a member of The Empty. And since only a powerful member of the Faith could decipher it, he was released into a powerful mind and will…mine. He can never take complete control but he is here with me for the rest of my life. He does not think that will be too long due to my obvious age, so he can be patient. After all, he waited millenia to be released, what’s another 20 years to an immortal such as him?”
“Fair enough, Grammy, but what compelled him to gather us all together?”
“Well, Hindral, he absolutely does not want the World to End. Because that’s where are the mortals live and he can’t have that now can he?”
“Umm, is no the right answer?”
“Exactly! And you see, EGL has been gifted with prescience. He knows what is to come and he has an idea of how to prevent this horrible outcome. For this quest he needs all of us and one more. But first, I have to give you a brief history of the Gods and the Beginning of the World…”

Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 5

Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…

Scene 1 : Negotiating the Beginning

Gramstaf touched the end of his walking staff to the pile of sticks and bark he had collected. With a loud whoomf a merry blaze instantly started. He motioned for them all to take a seat with him around the fire. Dragging noises as a few comfortable logs slid into place around the fire.
“We have much to tell, so much that you do not know or even suspect…”
Kilabra shook off the last of the Spell of Holding as she straightened to her full six feet of height and glared at the priest. Her amber eyes flashing. Gramstaf’s eyes pulsed a bright ice blue as he returned her gaze.
“Kilabra Dalsinien, I ask that you hold you anger at bay until I explain myself. You have every right to kill this man, but I insist that you hear us out first. I pledge my word to Our Lord and Saviour that you may kill him if you still wish afterwards.”
She arched her silver eyebrow and gave a brief nod of assent as she studied the old man, impressed with his power and wondering how he knew her name.
As they took their places around the fire, Gramstaf pulled a small wineskin from within his cassock.
“I have been told by many former students that I was the most boring orator at seminary. I heop this helps.” He held the wineskin up.
“You’re going to get drunk first?” Hindral smirked as she admired the wineskin.
“Hindral you really are quite annoying. If you weren’t so useful….” Gramstaf scowled deeply and handed her the wineskin.
She swigged and passed it along as Gramstaf organized his thoughts.
Kilabra spoke up,”What is Egl? You keep saying that word.” Kilabra watched the old man carefully as she spoke.
His eyes a brilliant shade of azure for an instant and then he returned her gaze.
“I am EGL-Gramstaf… I am Gramstaf-EGL… We are…one. EGL came to be part of me, part of my mind and soul. In so doing, he imparted knoweldge. This knowledge will allow us to save the Gods…and mortals.”
“Yes, but that does not explain what Egl is or how he knows what he tells you. Or even if he is telling the truth.”
“EGL knows all because he is from before time…before space…before life…”
Kilabra’s eyes widened as she recalled a legend of her people. Something told to children to punish them. She instantly drew her swords and placed them at his throat in one mercurial motion.
“I know what you are old man! Egl is a Demon of the Void!”
The other two stumbled backwards as they both stared in wide-eyed shock and fear.
“Hmm, maybe I should explain…” Gramstaf grinned as his eyes twinkled blue as he gazed up at Kilabra.

Fellowship of Fear – Chapter 4 concludes

Apologies for the lateness of this entry but I was having a bit of writer’s block. This is a crucial meeting and wanted it to suit the gravity of the situation and only figured out how to proceed as I was falling asleep last night. In any case, I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 4 : Kilabra Dalsinien

Scene 3 : Meeting for the First Time, Again

Kilbra stared down at the Man. She examined him,noticing his eyes below his eyelids, obviously vividly dreaming as she watched. His dark hair was a mp on the top of his head, the sides shaved close and showing grey. His creased face held the ghosts of scars from the many battles he had fought and his thin lips quivered as if he was speaking to someone. She leaned close to listen, to coax from him the words he spoke soundlessly. One word…
“Kilabra…”
She gasped and took a step backwards, waking him as his eyes flew open and looked into her amber eyes in confusion. He felt both awake and still dreaming.
“Wait…What…how?”
She regained her composure as she looked down at him and smiled with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
“Welcome to the land of the wakeful, Man. Dreaming of me were you?”
His eyes cleared, confusion fading and regret taking its place.
“Yes, I was. You were across a ravine dripping blood from your hand into a river of blood.”
Kilabra arched a platinum eyebrow and raised her palm to show the seeping wound dripping purple blood.
“Did it look something like this, Man?”
Denzred shivered as his gaze fixated on her hand. He reached out his hand then drew it back as his eyes drifted skyward.
“Yes, exactly like that. Why Lord? What are you trying to tell me?”
Kilabra closed her hand into a fist and chuckled dismissively. She placed her fists on her hips as she looked him over appraisingly.
“Well you seem to know my name, Man. So what is your’s?”
“I am…I was Sir Denzred the Landless. Now I am simply Denzred the Landless.”
Kilabra growled deep in her chest as she drew her twin bronze swords in a single flashing blur. She held them crossed below his chin as she grimace in disgust.
“I know that name, Man. We call you the Butcher of England! Now I understand why the Trions sent me here, and also understand the river of blood, you vile beast! You have slain so many of my brethren….so many fey!’
Translucent green tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke, disgust and rage thick in her voice. To her shock the human didn’t flinch, his gaze falling as tears rolled down his cheeks in turn.
“Your Trions are wise. Please end my life, for it is a sin to end it myself. I do not deserve to live, I do not deserve mercy. I am beyond redemption and must pay for my crimes in Hell.”
“Any final words before I end your existence and return to my people with your head tucked under my arm, butcher?”
He looked up at her once more as he leaned a little bit forward into the blades, a thin trickle of blood running down his throat as he spoke.
“Only this Kilabra; I did what I thought my Lord and Saviour wished. I was misled and wrong, but I am at peace with you taking my life. I deserve this punishment and so much more….”
He held her gaze as he awaited the final slice that separate his head from his neck…and waited. She stood motionless and then he noticed her eyes looking around in panic. Then he noticed a horse and rider suddenly appear as if from thin air behind her. The rider was very old with bright glowing blue eyes as he pulled his hands from a child’s eyes with an enormous nose. The child has her hands over her mouth and removed them as the old man smiled down at the two figures below him.
“I am so sorry, Kilabra Dalsinien, but Denzred is not allowed to die just yet. The Gods have a plan for both of you and that doesn’t including murdering him. My boy, why don’t you stand off to one side while we wait for the Spell of Holding to wear off and then I shall explain to you both while we await our final member.”
Denzred stumbled to his feet as he stared in wonder at Kilabra stand motionless staring down at the spot where he had knelt.
“Who are you? What is going on here?”
“Denzred, my child, my name is EGL-Gramstaf..hrrm…I mean Gramstaf-EGL, former Prelate of Canterbury.”
Denzred looked confused again as he fell to one knee and bowed his head.
“Don’t worry, he does that quite often. Hello there, I am Hindral Smik!”
“My child, stand up. I cannot claim your obeisance anymore. I did say former Prelate of Canterbury.”
Denzred slowly stood up and cast a glance at the what he had at first thought was a child and with a start realized it was a gnome.
“I bet you think I am a gnome, but you would be wrong. I am a Svirfneblin.”
She challenged him with her small brown eyes under what appeared to be a waxed leather fisherman’s hat as Denzred smiled and nodded.
“Don’t worry, she does that quite often too-”
“Well, you got it wrong when we first met old man. And here I thought you and Egl were supposed to be all-seeing?”
“Now, now, Hindral you know that’s not how this works.”
“Wait, I thought Egl was part of your name, Prelate?”
Gramstaf sighed heavily as he realized this explanation was going to take a bit more time. He noticed that Kilabra’s muscles were beginning to twitch in her neck and hands and decided to chance the subject for now.
“Let us all get comfortable. It looks like the spell is beginning to wear off and then I shall try to explain from the beginning…”
“Really priest? Isn’t that like a few thousand years of history?” Hindral smiled with mischievous in her eyes.
“Hush now, gnome!”
And with that Gramstaf dismounted with surprising ease for a man of his advanced years.
“Let me get a small fire started to warm my old bones, my friends.”