Guardians of the Rift

The heroes of the Seventh World have gathered at the Black Door. The full might of the Plague pours through the Rift, only by standing together as one can they stop it from consuming their world and the last vestige of the Maker’s creation. Meanwhile, Alec’s journey of destruction comes to an end as well – on the elven homeworld Ki'minsyllessil. There he must face the infection’s source and the hellish manifestation it has birthed into reality. This is the final battle -- the ultimate test of the living. But without the power of the Destroy can the Chosen stop the Plague from entering their world? Will the Chosen prove strong enough to stand against the oblivion of the Void and the endless forces of the Dark Army? Or will the Servant of Death claim them all in the end, transforming all that the Maker has wrought into chaos?


9. The Boulder Brothers



  –The Age of Death,

The Seventh World

First War of Lock Core, Post Exodus 565–


The rain continued to fall upon the Red Wall . . .

. . . so too did his father’s hammer, every blow landing on the stone like a violent crash of thunder. 

The rain and oncoming night challenged Drau’d’s limited cave-vision, obscuring his father’s image.  He could see clearly for ten steps in front of him, but beyond that, the Red Wall was a blur, and the land below a writhing black pit.  Thankfully, by following the repetitive booms of his father’s hammer, he was easy to find amidst the walkway full of prowling shadows.

Through sheets of driving rain he closed in on the sound, finding his father’s massive form hammering away at a humanoid body at his feet. Deeply set within his crag-like eyebrows, his wide brown eyes were a mix of rage and intense focus as he sought to decimate the being.  Tufts of curly grey hair sprouted from his head like a bush, so matted and snarled they defied the drenching rain

His legs trembling as the walkway vibrated below his feet, Drua’d steadied himself and lumbered towards him.

For as long as he could remember, a smile had blessed his father’s face.  The only thing more legendary than his strength was his kindness.  But ever since the Rift awoke, a dark scowl had been spreading upon his visage.  And now, three days into the war, Drau’d feared that scowl had become a permanent fixture.

Once more the elder giant raised the massive crystalline hammer to the sky . . . with a roar, he propelled it downward, backing the swing with the full might of his massive arms and shoulders. 

Drau’d’s legs nearly buckled beneath the blast.   The granite below him fractured into hundreds of spider web cracks.  

Before his father raised the hammer for another blow, Drau’d called to him.

“You’ve been summoned, Father,” the young giant said, raising his voice to be heard above the rain.

His father turned to regard him, and for a moment, the familiar wide smile returned.

Standing just over five-stones (roughly ten human feet), his father wasn’t the largest of the Boulder Dwarfs.  But with his muscular arms and shoulders hardened from years of toil in the granite mines, he was possibly the strongest.  Every passing day, Drau’d seemed to be gaining on him in height, yet was still a long way from filling out to match his girth.

That wasn’t to say Drau’d was weak -- far from it.  It simply meant that because he had only seen the passing of twenty-four sun stones, he lacked the rock-hard physique that could only be earned through a lifetime of rigorous work.

“Summoned?” his father replied, pausing to lift his hammer off the pile of mush that was once the being’s head.  “Summoned for what?” 

Little flesh remained on the corpse’s bones, and that which did, was yellow and continually bled, excreting a black pus-like substance.  Many of its organs were exposed, though none of them were recognizable.  Judging on its location, Drau’d figured the pile of black slime spilling from its midsection to be its entrails. 

The sight – and the smell – of the dead ones was still horrifying to him.  As was the realization that some unholy miracle was even now keeping the creature alive. 

For the most part, they had cleared the walkway of the abominations, but a few of them were proving more difficult to be rid of.

This one especially . . .

It was an ancient one, and though the body was no larger than a human’s, it had been a most deadly opponent.  After a millennium of infection, its cells and its soul were utterly consumed by the dark power, endowing it with strength equal to the greatest of the Boulder Lords.  And it was faster . . . far faster than his kin -- faster than any living being should be.  Sadly, three of their Lords fell before it was defeated.  That they defeated it at all seemed a miracle, for whatever dark power gave it strength also made it nearly indestructible.  Even weapons of silver proved ineffective against it. 

Drau’d remembered his own failed attempt to end the abomination; for a split second, the creature was preoccupied, tearing handfuls of flesh from a defeated Brother, allowing Drau’d to land his mace of silver spikes on the top of its head.  Like hitting a wall of pure granite, the blow reverberated through his weapon, jolting his entire massive body.  The being didn’t explode into silver-fire, nor did the spikes even penetrate its skull.  With all of his weight and power behind the blow, Drau’d was barely able to drive it to its knees.  He only managed to stun it, and only momentarily. 

Nevertheless, the momentarily pause was enough time for his father, Brodin, to step in and pound it into the walkway with the legendary hammer, “Hell’s Bane”.  Others joined in, including Drau’d, but only the blows of “Hell’s Bane” had any lasting effect.  Still, it took over five solid swings by his father, the mighty Brodin, before the being went down.  And even now, with its mushy black brains splayed over the walkway it refused to die; its fleshless hands flailed about in an attempt to dig into his father’s legs and spread its foul essence.

Brodin stilled the nearest hand, stomping on it with an enormous black boot.

“They’re holding a Council . . .” Drua’d hesitantly continued, knowing full well how his father felt about such things.  “For all we know, it could be the last one ever.”

At the words, every hint of a smile faded.  A fierce glint filled his father’s eyes.  Like a beast sizing up its prey, he looked at Drau’d; the wild grey locks covering his face and head standing up like a lion’s mane.

“A Council eh?” Brodin replied, turning from his son to renew his efforts to kill the creature.  As if he was working stone, he rhythmically slammed “Hell’s Bane” against the creature’s body.  “Tell em I’m busy.”

Drau’d thought he saw an inner glow from the hammer as his father collapsed the being’s chest cavity.  But the glow vanished, and he dismissed it as a trick of his mind; the hammer most likely catching the light of mage-fire or a distant lighting strike. 

“Humph,” Brodin scoffed, the being little more than a mess of black slime around his boots.  “Let’s see you get up from that.”

As if in response, the more meaty areas of the slime twitched.

“Will someone get me a Mage to rid us of this thing!” he shouted to a pair of giants who were guiding a cart laden with large stones through the walkway.  “Can’t hardly burn it myself in this damn rain.”

Seeing the ferocious look in their leader’s eyes, they deposited their load then hurried to comply.

For the moment, the northern quarter was secure.  Earlier that day, they had retaken a large portion of the Wall, joining forces with the garrison of humans, elves and their diminutive cousins the rock dwarves.  The battle had been bloody, brutal, and highly costly to their kin.  Many of his kin fell . . . but everyone they lost took a great toll on the army of the Plague. 

When first the Rift awoke, it was a full day before they heard news of it – and another full day before they reached the Red Wall.  Though late to the party, their arrival couldn’t have come at a better time.  Their deafening charge down the wall took the Plague by surprise.  The undead had victory all but in their grasp when the two hundred Boulder Lords came storming down the wall, sweeping thousands of the fiends to their deaths.   

However, even now the undead forces were amassing below, preparing for another assault; obviously intent on taking this section of the wall. 

To slow their progression, the Magi were working in shifts; half of them were busy raining flames down upon the gathering forces, while the others took a moment to rest and regain their strength.  The humans were either scrambling down the walkway, resupplying the defenders with silver-tipped arrows, or they were constantly unleashing those arrows into the horde below.  The elves lined the knee-wall alongside the humans; each wielding a longbow of black elm equal to their height (which was well over seven-feet tall).  Even in the driving rain and darkening sky, with their keen grey and white eyes they could pick off enemies from five hundred yards away; their arrows flying from their fingertips twice as fast as the human archers.

Drau’d’s ‘cousins’ the Rock Dwarves, put their enhanced night-vision to use as they searched the walkway for fallen companions, or any remnants of the undead army, and put a permanent end to them with their silver hammers and axes. 

As for the Boulder Lords, some, like his father, were helping the dwarves; insuring all those they ‘killed’ in the recent battle were actually dead.  The rest of them were harvesting stones from any nearby non-defensive structures and stacking them along the knee wall.  When the battle renewed, his kin would hurl the stones into the oncoming horde.  

“Why in the Seventh would they call a Council now anyway?” Brodin pondered, mostly to himself, ignoring the twitching pile of slime at his boots. 

“Perhaps they have a plan,” Drau’d said, doing his best to sound optimistic. 

His father’s raucous laughter caused any nearby dwarves to pause their tasks.

“A way to drive them back into Hell’s Door once and for all,” Drau’d continued, trying to convince his father to take the Council seriously.

“A plan . . . ?” Brodin mocked, slapping his meaty palm upon Drau’d’s shoulder.  “You’ve seen what this enemy is capable of, my boy.  Seems to me, there’s only one plan left . . . we stand our ground, or the Seventh World dies.  Our Keeper’s a wise enough fellow, surely he can see what this is . . .”

Wrapping both hands around “Hell’s Bane’s” handle, he hoisted the shimmering brick of crystal to his shoulder and continued, “To be sure, our ancestors had a plan . . . a good one, a real chance to end this madness.  But by dead if we didn’t ignore it.  Instead of strengthening the wall, we created a city . . . a city for the dead ones to feed upon.”

Drau’d knew what this was.  He had seen it in their fight for the walkway, as he saw it still, filling the vale below.  He didn’t have to be as wise as his father, or the Keeper, to know the truth of it.

They couldn’t hope to defeat this foe.  This was the end of the Seventh World, and perhaps the end of all life.

But knowing that . . . seeing the endless undead army pouring into his world . . . it didn’t make him want to run and hide, prolonging the inevitable.  Instead, the thought of it filled his veins with fire, a rage unlike anything he felt before.  With the end so close, he only wanted to fight harder, survive longer, and never give up; not until his heart stopped beating and he was taken either in death, or the undeath. 

He prayed to the gods, it wasn’t the latter.

“Since the Exodus, the Triad has stood as one,” Drau’d said, his intense brown eyes a mirror image of his father’s.  “If this is the end, it should still be so.”

“Aye, it should . . .” resigned, Brodin agreed with him.  Above all, his father was honorable.  Even if he thought the Council was a waste of time, he would fulfill his duty and attend.

Drau’d saw the inner struggle within his eyes; as much as he was honor-bound to attend, Brodin also needed to be with his people, at the war-front where his strength and the power of “Hell’s Bane” counted for more than debating the inevitable at the Council.

Drau’d knew where his father’s heart lay.  He had never been one for deliberating.  Brodin had always let his hammer do the talking for him, whether it was in the mines of the Athmas or, more recently, the walkway of Lock Core.

“With your permission . . . I would attend in your stead,” Drau’d said, not eager to leave his kin, but well aware that his father was far more valuable on the wall.  “Besides, without the mighty Brodin to guard it, surely Lock Core will fall,” Drua’d chided, though he believed the words to be true.

“Ha . . .”

A toothy grin covered his father’s face. 

“You’ve more than proven yourself worthy to do so, first as a warrior, now as a crafty politician,” he continued, smiling at Drau’d with pride.  “The Council would be lucky to have you, my son.  And the Boulder Lords lucky to have you as our representative.  I dare say, the only one to suffer will be the Red Wall, for the mighty Drau’d will be sorely missed upon its heights.” 

Drau’d reached out to clasp his father’s hand, only to find himself pulled in by his iron grip.  One arm still balanced “Hell’s Bane” on his shoulder while the other wrapped Drau’d in a bone-crushing hug.  A little surprised by the sentiment, Drau’d wondered if his father was merely proud of him, or if he thought it was the last time he would see his son.

“I’ll return to fight at your side, father,” Drau’d stated, doing his best to convince his father – and himself – that they would meet again.

Brodin nodded his head, though it was obvious from the look in his eyes that he knew better.

“Go then, my son.  Stand for the Lords.  You’ve earned a chance to lead our people, I’m sorry if this is the only one you’ll get . . .”

Drau’d nodded back, then turned to leave, heading to the Northern Tower.

Behind him, his father set to work on another twitching corpse.  Drau’d only made it a few feet before his heard his father’s gruff voice call out to him one last time, “If I’ve fallen when you return . . . take “Hell’s Bane”, and make certain my death is a permanent one.”

“I won’t disappoint you . . .”




“No, son.  You never have . . .” Brodin whispered.

He couldn’t bear to watch him leave – not without becoming a whimpering babe in front of the rest of the defenders; the mere thought of never seeing his son again nearly drew him to tears.  Doing his best to bury his sadness, he continued down the walkway, unleashing his emotions by laying waste to anything moving that wasn’t alive. 

No matter what was to come, he knew his son would die well and with honor.  He was not only blessed with a warrior’s heart, but a caring soul as well – a most rare, and special combination.  Whatever the battle, Drau’d would always fight for the side of the righteous. 

He tried to convince himself that it was a good thing he had left, and that Drau’d would be safer with the Council.  After all, the World’s most powerful mages would be in attendance, and with any luck, so too would the One Elf. 

Yes, it is good he has left, Brondin decided. 

Drau’d stood a much better chance in the tower than he did on the walkway.  The wall was a slaughterhouse.  The living were the cattle.  He knew what was to come, but he didn’t want to see it – to see the potential and goodness of his eldest boy desecrated, his body butchered.  Brodin knew his own days were numbered, whether he died in this battle or home, upon his deathbed.  But he had lived his life to the fullest; found the love of his life, and raised two strong sons. 

Drua’d deserved as much.  No . . . he deserved more.  He was stronger, kinder and wiser than Brodin ever hoped to be.  He would have led his people with honor.

Now he would never get that chance . . . the closest he would come was a meaningless Council.

His youngest boy, Gunt, would have to take on that duty.   Though yet a child, Gunt would be the last of his line, and therefore heir to whatever remained of the kingdom of the Boulder Lords.

He grinned, thinking of his first trial in this war, having to tell his feisty little boy that he was too young to join them.  Unlike his elder brother, Gunt had been fighting him since the day he was born; every bit as fierce as his mother, and as stubborn as his father.  A child born for war, he would take on any enemy no matter the odds, and for no other reason than he loved a good fight.

Despite having lived to see only sixteen sun stones, he had no doubt Gunt would have honored their people in the field of battle.  But his rage was unbridled, and he was far too rash.  He wasn’t ready for war, not yet.  Because he lacked maturity and discipline, he most likely would have fallen sooner than later.  Brodin had no desire to lead him to his death, and certainly no desire to witness it.

If Gunt obeyed his father’s final command, and led his people deep into the mountains, then gods willing, in time, he shall grow to adulthood and be granted the opportunity to quench his blood-lust in battle against the undead horde.

He could no longer hold back his tears as he pictured his youngest son’s anger pitted against the Plague.  Oh how he wished he could have seen it . . .

Wiping away the tears, sweat and rain from his eyes, Brodin continued to clear the walkway, the thought of his youngest son avenging the fallen Boulder Lords making his grisly task a bit more bearable. 

After bludgeoning a few more undead skulls, he couldn’t find anything else to eradicate.  Most of the smaller Rock Dwarves were in a similar position, and had stowed their weapons so they could drag the lifeless corpses to the edge of the wall and hurl them into the throng below.

As he watched them labor, Brodin still found it strange that, among the rest of the Triad, his people had somehow gained the title ‘dwarf’.  It wasn’t that he resented it, or found the contradictory title insulting.  There was great kinship between the two races, and both groups were more than happy to be thought of as family.  

Since the exodus, they had formed an immediate bond with the dwarven race.  The two races were so often working together, and so physically similar (other than their size), that the rest of the Triad found it convenient to lump them together.  In their mountain homes, they were relatively secluded from the rest of the races.  Dwarven artisans and builders could often be found in Lock Core, but the majority of their people remained in the mountains; the Rock Dwarves dwelling deep within, burrowing caverns, halls and mining the rich supply of precious ore, while the Boulder Dwarves lived upon the cliffs, constantly sculpting the mountain face into elaborate caves. 

To the Triad, his people were known as Dwarves, but among his own kind they were Lords – the Boulder Lords.  If the Triad wished to group them with the dwarves, then so be it.  The Lords considered it an honor to be included in such noble company.

He patted one of his smaller kin on the back, nearly toppling him over as he sought to pull his pickaxe from the skull of an undead corpse.  Together, they shared a chuckle as the little dwarf’s temporary loss of balance forced him to rip the head off the rotten corpse.

“You wouldn’t have that problem if you used a hammer, Grandlefist,” Brodin joked, pointing to the crystal brick that was “Hell’s Bane”.

“You know . . .” the dwarf said, studying the foul head stuck to his weapon.  “I think I rather like it.  Maybe I’ll keep er there . . . let the rest of these bastards know what they’re in for.”

Brodin replied with a booming laugh, even though Grandlefist hadn’t intended it as a joke.  And indeed, the dwarf left the head as it was – a foot of silver coated spike sticking out from between its eyes.  Just to even out the weapon’s weight, he found another corpse, and buried the other end of his pickaxe into its head. 

Still laughing, Brodin moved on, checking the progress of the rest of the defenders.

For the most part, they had cleared the walkway of corpses, and the rain was taking care of the remaining blood and gore.  The Boulder Lords continued to gather nearby stones, and had created several towering stacks along the edge of the wall.  Brodin inspected a stack of the large granite blocks, testing their heft to see how quickly he could start hurling them into the horde below.  He held one aloft, just beyond the edge of the Red Wall.  To check its effectiveness, he let if fall, counting the seconds before he heard a distant, satisfactory thunk, accompanied by a guttural scream from below.  He pondered dumping them all, so irresistible was the urge, so satisfactory the ‘thunk’.  He stayed his hand however, knowing the time was soon to come when he would have more than his share of killing.

Night was creeping in, further darkening the dreary grey sky.  Gradually, his eyes adjusted to the difference.  The eyes of the Boulder Lords weren’t as strong in the darkness as their smaller cousins nor anywhere near as keen as that of the elves.  But with the help of the constant barrage of mage-flare and occasional lightning strikes, even Brodin could see that the latest army was far more powerful than anything they faced before.  Not only had they grown to cover the land below, but they continued to spill from the Black Door, piling over one another in their blood-thirsty rage to reach the wall.  At the base of the wall, a sizeable pile had formed -- despite the arrows, flames, and giant stones that were being hurled at it.

He couldn’t get a clear image of the enemy, but the one thing he could discern was that among this group he noticed many that were fleshless and skeletal; similar to the ancient one that had been nearly impossible to take down.

It was to be expected . . . so it went since the beginning.  Every wave was a test, and one wave after another the forces of the Plague tested the wall.  The arrival of the ancient ones in the last group was merely another test.  Most likely, whoever commanded the Plague wanted to see how the defenders stacked up against them, or if they were even capable of killing them.  To be sure, they could kill them – “Hell’s Bane” had seen an end to one of them.  But that was only one of the ancient ones.  Now, though the skeletal shapes were difficult to count in the pit of writhing bodies, there had to be thousands of such beings . . . and more poured from the Rift every minute.

He looked down upon the gathering army in sadness, knowing this would be the final wave.  The enemy had learned all it needed to know.  Now, it would hold nothing back . . .

And so it began . . . like a single entity, the mass of bodies began surging up the Red Wall.

“Brothers, to the wall!” He thundered.

He didn’t bother to look to see if his command was obeyed, the pounding of nearly two hundred pairs of giant feet was enough confirmation.

Quicker than he expected, they scaled the wall; the fleshless ones . . . too many of the fleshless ones, their fingertips digging into pure granite as if soft earth.  Immune to fatigue, strengthened by the Virus and ensuing bloodlust, the climb wasn’t difficult for them . . . but it did slow them down. 

It did give the Brothers enough time to reach the wall and drop their stones.

Setting “Hell’s Bane” aside, Brodin lifted one of the large bricks over the knee wall (which was no higher than his ankles) and immediately let it fall.  The first ancient one in its path his saw it coming; his glassy, black eyes were emotionless as the stone plummeted towards him.  As if an afterthought, the creature tried to dodge it.  Though it moved quickly, the stone managed to clip its arm, and in a burst of foul black blood, it tore the limb clean off.  His expression as emotionless as ever, the ancient one went plummeting end over end after his fallen arm. 

Those below it had no idea what was coming.  Their fallen companion and the stone collided into them, creating a chain reaction of tumbling bodies.  One by one the stone peeled them from the wall, clearing a straight path to the field below.

The path closed instantly. 

But now Brodin had a stone on each shoulder and was dropping them in pairs, hurling them as fast as his massive arms could lift them.

Even so, in his periphery, he saw that the wall was being covered by the foul creatures.  With every passing second, the swarm of bodies grew closer to the top of the Red Wall. 

And meanwhile, the Brothers were running out of stones – not that it really mattered, for it was becoming apparent that the dead would reach them before that happened.  Brodin waited until he saw a skeletal hand clutching the knee wall, then he slammed his final stone down upon the creature.  Instead of grabbing another brick, he wrapped his callused palms around the steel column that was the handle of “Hell’s Bane”.

The undead were about to surmount the wall.  He raised the hammer into the air, preparing to blow anything that made it over back into the Rift.  But instead, Brodin was the one flying backwards.  He landed on the walkway, his ass taking the worst of the damage as the face of the wall was doused in broiling flames.

“Damned Mages.  Cutting er a bit close, ain’t they, Brodin?”

Picking “Hell’s Bane” off the walkway, he turned to find Grandlefist at his side.  His face was blackened.  Smoke rose from his singed red beard.  One hand held a light-weight shield of their special ‘blue-steel’, the other tightly gripped a pickaxe with a pair of half-rotten skulls on either end.

Several of Brodin’s kin rushed to his aid, but he shrugged them off, getting to his feet by using “Hell’s Bane” as a prop.

A quick glance to his left and to his right revealed a line of dwarves, giants, humans and elves arrayed along the knee-wall for as far as he could see. 

They all looked below, to the burning dead ones.  Though they burned, few fell . . . and they continued to climb.  Several of the defenders emptied their stomachs onto the horde as the stench of thousands of burning corpses wafted over the wall.  Brodin’s gut was hard as rock, but as his gaping nostrils sucked in the foul air even he felt the bile rising at the back of his throat.

“Apparently, the Magi didn’t cut it close enough, Grandlefist.” Brodin replied, watching as the burning horde drew nearer.  As if they weren’t horrid to begin with, now what little flesh they had was cooking and sloughing off of their bones. 

Shouting at the top of his mighty lungs, he called out to anyone on the wall that could hear him, “Guardians of the Gate, gather yourselves.  Our end is near . . . I will not promise you a victory.  But if we stand strong . . . and stand together, I guarantee that when you fall . . . you will have died a good death.  And with any luck, you’ll have sent some of these bastards back to hell where they belong.”

A battle cry resounded along the wall.  Preparing to meet the final wave, the defenders raised their melee weapons to the air, crying out, “So that all may live!” 

With his knuckles whitening on the steel handle -- skeletal hands topped the wall -- “Hell’s Bane” came slamming down.




The Red Wall had fallen.  The throng of lifeless flooded the walkway, and spilled into the city, where they satiated their hunger within the very streets of Lock Core.

The line of defenders was reduced to a ring.  They were constantly moving back . . . their numbers constantly shrinking.  Humans were scarce among them – dwarves even scarcer.  Elves formed the majority of the circle.  Of the Boulder Lords, few of his kin remained.  None would say they died easily, or from lack of fight.  Indeed, the Boulder Lords sent many to hell before they went down.  But unfortunately, their massive bodies proved too large a target, and the latest wave of enemies were much quicker than those that came before; many were, in fact, the ancient ones.  And many were something else . . . something far worse.  Though they all shared the same callous stare, the blood of some was like acid, and burnt flesh and even steel when spilt.  The handle of “Hell’s Bane” was well worn from facing such beings.  Blessed be the Gods, the crystal brick at the end suffered no such damage.

The only positive note to the battle – if it could be considered as such – was that the defenders no longer had to worry about infection.  Those who fell, didn’t rise up to fight alongside the dead.  Instead, they were quickly pulled into the horde, where the dead tore them asunder with their bare hands.  They cared nothing for the blood they spilt, making it clear they hadn’t come to this world to feed on its populace, but to exterminate them. 

To the Guardians’ credit, they held the wall for some time.  Though most of the fight was spent backpedaling against the sheer numbers, it was hours before they were completely overcome.  If it wasn’t for the quick and skilled elves, they would have been annihilated a long time ago.

Many would say Brodin could also take credit for their survival – though he wanted none.  At the moment, the only thing he sought was vengeance – to take as many of the undead fiends as possible with him to the afterlife.

Swinging “Hell’s Bane” like a pendulum, anything in front of him went launching into the air. 

His chest heaved in and out.  His arms burned from exhaustion.  But he refused to stop swinging.  He refused to let his hammer fall.  The more undead ones that came at him, the harder he swung . . . and the brighter his hammer glowed.

Surely the gods were with him in this final battle, the others knew it as well.  As they all fought beneath “Hell’s Bane’s” glow, they knew they weren’t abandoned.  The gods fought with them, empowering his weapon, its light the only thing between them and dark oblivion that threatened to engulf them. 

Then, as if another miracle, the dead suddenly froze in their tracks.  For the first time since they faced them, their vacant expressions showed an emotion . . . confusion.  The undead may have paused, but the Guardians did not.  They took their confusion as another godsend, and pushed forward, hacking and slashing their way through the solid throng. 

Their free-for-all didn’t last long.  They too stopped, even with their enemy utterly defenseless before them.  They too looked on in puzzlement as a black tide arose in the night, swallowing every last star in the sky. 

All that it touched it was scattered through the winds in a blast of dust.  Even the ancient ones evaporated.  The Red Wall itself collapsed into a pile of sand.

It roared down the wall, consuming all.

And it showed no sign of slowing as it came for the defenders.  Side by side, they bravely awaited its arrival; elves, dwarves, humans and giants standing as one.   Knowing full well it meant their death, they welcomed its arrival.  Since the battle began, they had accepted the fact that they would never leave the Red Wall, and that they would die defending it.    

Yes, they would be destroyed . . . but so too would the army of the Plague.  It was closer to victory than they ever hoped to achieve.

Truly, the gods were with them . . . if the destructive power wasn’t proof enough, Brodin actually saw one, hovering in the air at his side.  She was much stranger than he would have imagined; a golden halo surrounded her body, which was that of a frail old woman, with fine, white hair covering her skin.  Her eyes were yellow; her nose pointed and long.

As if recognizing her presence, “Hell’s Bane” glowed brighter. 

With the darkness crashing down on him, she turned to Brodin and spoke, “Rest well with the Maker, Mithrlnite.  And know that your hammer will pass unto your sons.”

Brodin was torn apart by the maelstrom . . . but instead of pain, he only felt peace, for he knew his sons would live on, and in their hands, the undead would continue to suffer “Hell’s Bane’s” wrath . . .


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