Chapter 100: The lonely road (2)

Brock stood atop the southern walls and looked out over the enormous mass of barbarians who were encamped just within sight. They were a safe distance from the weapons of war on the walls and the more powerful magic spells that could cause devastation on the battlefield. He had been asked to help in overseeing the defense for the Northern expeditionary forces. Since he was idling away anyway, he figured he would agree so that they would allow him to leave the barracks he was basically being imprisoned in. They wouldn’t admit to that of course, but he wasn’t a fool. It didn’t matter though, because the one he served had wanted him to stay with them for the time being anyway.

“What do you think Sir Brock?” Asked an officer of the Northern expeditionary force.

He was clad in a full suit of chainmail and wore a longsword sheathed at his waist with a shield strapped to his back. He was a typical northerner with a braided dirty blonde beard and hair. He also wore the helmets of the northern style which were a type of steel helmet which covered the top of the head and had a steel nose guard that ran down the middle, covering the nose. The eyes were clearly visible but most of the center of the face was covered.

“Hmm… Their numbers are worrisome. There are just under one hundred thousand defenders in the city and while supplies are ample for now, how long will they last if these barbarians continue their siege for an indefinite period of time? Breaking out is going to be impossible with their numbers, but staying here doesn’t guarantee survival either.”

Brock was not really aware of what Aleks’s plans were in depth, but he had confidence that Aleks wouldn’t just leave him here to die. He didn’t mind alleviating the boredom by offering his military advice in this situation since he didn’t really care one way or the other who was the victor. It was just a means for him to pass the time.

“We only need to hold out until our reinforcements arrive. Once they do, we will fight these barbarians to the death. They may have numbers, but most of their warriors are low Intermediate class and their equipment is mostly shoddy. Only their elites are worthy of consideration. The rabble will flee once they have suffered enough losses.”

“You seem quite confident in these reinforcements?”

“Of course! As a commander yourself Sir Brock, you should know how fierce Dragonmen can be. A full legion of Dragonmen Chevalier’s is a sight to behold and with Dragons raining down fire from the skies, we have nothing to fear!” The commander seemed especially excited at the mention of dragons.

“I see.” Brock nodded in reply.

He hadn’t known about their recent plans until now. If those were their reinforcements, there was certainly some confidence in victory. Still, he thought it wouldn’t be as simple as this man believed. While dragons were powerful, they were few in number and he doubted the Dragon King would commit too many of his kin to this battle. The death of any dragon would be too heavy a loss for their kind on this continent. It wasn’t as if the barbarians had no means of dealing with them. Their shamans had powerful magic they could use to fight against dragons.

After initially viewing the enemy, Brock and the officer left the walls to return back to the garrison where their forces were stationed. They discussed several potential strategies and shared some of their experiences. The officer was extremely respectful towards Brock and listened to every word he spoke with care. The Archbishop was hoping to acquire his services so they had shown no lack of propriety. As they were walking, Brock suddenly stopped. Noticing his strange behavior, the officer glanced at what Brock was staring at and immediately grew nervous.

“Shelise…” Brock muttered.

The officer became flustered and attempted to drag Brock in a different direction. Shelise hadn’t yet noticed Brock and was speak with an older man beside her that the officer knew was a Legendary being of great fame.

Brock was initially shocked, but he remembered his master’s words and regained his calm. Aleks had already mentioned to him that she might still be alive and if so, to stay away from her. He couldn’t understand why Aleks would give him such instructions, but he was certain he must have his reasons.

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“Sir, please, we should head this way.”

Brock hesitated, but finally allowed the officer to lead him away. Shelise had never once turned her head, but when Brock had finally disappeared from sight, she looked at the spot where he once stood with a contemplative gaze.

“What is it Shelise?” Asked the man beside her.

“Nothing. Just a ghost.”


In another place and another time, for here time has no meaning, there exists a place of nightmare. Here, the landscape is apocalyptic and barren. It is a wasteland of decay, its very existence extinguishing the light of hope. It is here that one of the original creations of the universe toil in endless servitude. It is the home of the Daemons and their mighty overlords, the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The terrifying plane of Abaddon.

Everywhere the eye could see was a wasteland, but it was a wasteland that still had life. Only the Daemons and Archdaemons could exist here, for only they were suitable for such a place. Along its infinite dread plains resided many such creatures living in their mighty and terrifying strongholds. From these strongholds, they caused endless strife, war, and death.

There was one stronghold which was mightier than all the rest, but only a very few were so honored to allow entry to this place. For residing within, was the unknown, the unnamed, the unspoken. Whatever it was, even the four horsemen who ruled Abaddon must grovel in reverence at its gates.

Four horsemen rode across the barren plains side by side, equidistant without any flaw. The color of their horses were each unique, one black, one white, one red and one pale. These horses breathed fire from their mouths and smoke emitted from their nostrils. Their hooves were like the hooves of a monstrous beast, and their manes were thick and coarse. A frightening aura was emitted from just the horses alone. Those riding on them could cause the end of life through a single glance. They were figures clothed in black, covered from head to toe. Only a large and luxurious crown was visible on each of their hidden brows.

They were the epitome, perhaps even the source, of the laws of Death, Pestilence, Conquest, and Famine. Charun, the Lord of Styx, loimós, The Pustulent fiend, Phlegyas, The Despot, and Limos, The Starving One.

Their horses thundered across the landscape before coming to an abrupt stop before the grand and majestic gate of this abnormally immense stronghold. Their movements were mirror images of each other as they dismounted their fiery horses and kneeled before the gates in reverence and obedience. What could reside there to cause such beings who were all powerful to kneel? Only they knew.

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A booming voice resounded throughout the entire plane, causing those lesser to tremble in fear and despair.

“Enter.”

Only a single command, but it was enough to shake all of creation. It was only when the command was given that the Four Horsemen finally stood and entered the stronghold, each a hair’s breadth from the other. They had been summoned, and it was their duty to obey. They walked through the empty halls of the stronghold. It was barren of all life and decorated much like a mausoleum. It seemed to be built to remember, or perhaps to keep still, a single moment in time. They eventually navigated through the seemingly endless halls for an unknown period of time until they arrived at a throne room that seemed built for enormous giants. There were mighty pillars with strange archaic symbols and murals adorned the walls displaying mysterious and ethereal images. At the end of the hall was a large dais where was place a grand and mighty throne of a freakish size. Everything about this place was much grander than one could imagine.

It was before this throne that the Four Horsemen once more kneeled in reverence. They were still and silent, like the dead. There was no movement or sound at all, and they remained kneeled with patience until a voice was suddenly heard from atop the throne.

“In the beginning, there were three. One to create, one to protect, and one to destroy. Now, only one remains.” The voice lamented, its voice permeating every corner, every hidden place.

Still the Four Horsemen remained still. They dare not speak in its presence. A feeling of intense pressure was felt upon their shoulders as something from a much more primordial age rested its gaze upon them.

“You, who were despised. You, who were forgotten. Only you, who remained steadfast. Honor shall be yours, for in the end, there shall be nothing. That.. is… all.”

Even though the Four had come a long distance to reach this place and even though their plane was in a great war they could not dare to ignore for even a short time, they did not hesitate to come here and ignore everything else. Despite only the few words that were spoken, they did not dare complain. For those few words were enough.

The end would soon be upon them, they who had waited for an eternity to complete their role. They had longed to hear these words.

- my thoughts:
This is chapter 100 and the end of Volume 2/Book 2 of Empire of Souls
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