Vol.2, Ch.5, P.7


Having clambered my way out of the well, I wound my eyes about the locale, finding Karl and his unit-mates missing from the scene. All that remained was the old man, stilled and soulless as he slept upon the earth.

Taking him into my arms, I had him brought into his plundered home, and there laid him down beside an elderly woman as she rested the eternal rest upon the littered floor. With husband and wife reunited, I took leave and looked to the west, where raged the fiercest fray.

In that distance, I glimpsed the Nafílim ranks more enlarged than last I’d seen of them. It was certain: the war-chief Volker and his spears were yet fighting on, newly invigorated by reinforcements.

The momentum seemed set in their favour. No worries there, then.

If aught was to be had, it would be for the orphans and their fallowed home of a district. Had the evacuation went as planned? Or were the paupers being pillaged at this very moment? With each of the little ones’ faces fresh in my mind, I whipped my wounded and waterlogged body into motion. Back to the poor district it was, and by the lay of the streets, I reckoned that Karl and his company had charted the same course: confronting them again was certainly in the cards.

But were he in the spread dealt, I knew not how to answer—not with this hand of mine, so fain as it was to fold, for it was a fact that Karl had left me for dead. Were we to meet again, most surely would he shut the lid over my casket for good.

Nonetheless, I was loath to stand idly by. Steeled yet uncertain, I set my sights to the orphans’ home and made haste through the flaming fólkheimr.



I arrived at the run-down district, close to the children’s abode, only to find the fires having vaulted their way to this vicinity, as well. What foulness there was in the Fiefguard… that they would lay torches upon the houses of the half-homed. But from the sorry sight, there was some relief: the folk here all seemed to have fled—and with them, the children.

Onward I went, running through the rubble-strewn street till my eyes caught in the distance the distinct silhouettes of Londosian silver armour. Soldiers—to wit, Karl and his comrades. And joined with them was none other than Ebbe.

Swords flashed and flew. There were all of them locked in combat. Though their foe numbered but one: Lise.


I gasped.

In sighting her did I find also another figure anear: round it was, and sat utterly still upon its knees. The ground beneath it burnt with deep red reflections—a pool of blood. All the while, its face was bent down, just as unmoving, just as unbreathing as the rest of its body.

The look on Lise’s own told the tale well enough.


…It was Berta.

The war-chief was felled.


I’d only met her in the earlier course of the day.


Hers was a heart of such gentleness and warm spirit that she felt more a friend of many years.

A friend, then.

Made and lost upon the same day.

Lost, at the end of a life led defending the defenceless.

One of whom, in turn, defended her memory to this moment. With every sweep and swing of her longdaggers did Lise struggle on, hushing her sorrow as she alone shouldered the fray, all that Berta’s battle might attain to some meaning.

What boundless strength there was in her.

But a strength on the verge of breaking: the brunt of the brutes’ magicks seemed anathema to her mettle. She could not go it alone. Left as is, her own untimely end was soon to come.

Then for her: my strength.

Seeing the Ebbe-elites fixed on their foe, I slinked off to the side streets and rounded near, tempting not their attention. Embering eaves, hazy heat—through sweltering alleyways I slipped till I touched upon the very side of the soldiers’ formation.

Ducking behind cover, I caught sight of a wain. Bearing it with both hands, I next spotted nigh a half-standing home, empty and choked with embers. At it I aimed the fore of the wain and, with all my might, sent it barrelling straight in.

Bvouvhh!—a boom beat the air as the wain crashed against the rickety wall. The timbers inside all groaned and gave: the paupers’ home, poorly constructed, could not contain the shock. With a jolt, half of the foundations foundered; the building leant forward and failed under its own weight before spilling its burning bowels into the main street.

“Shite!!” someone shouted amongst the reeling men. “Wot in ’ells!?”

In my ears: Karl with his characteristic screech.

And he had every right to be roused, for not only had the hurling house halted the battle, but its fiery remnants now barred the men from their mark: Lise, as she stood on the other side in like astonishment.

Soon enough, bewildered eyes spotted me behind the rubble.

“…You!” Karl cried, his face fuming more redly than the roaring flames. “Ye ungraced ghoul, you! A corpse best stays in th’grave, it does!!”

The Ebbe-lacqueys all brooked my presence no more pleasantly, weaving disdain and damnation with deftness into their scowls.


And from behind the blaze came Lise’s call. I began to answer—


—till sent my way was a whirling sphere of flames.

“Damn—!” I grimaced, straightway twisting my body and bounding aside, but beset by pain wailing from my many wounds, my legs jerked and nigh-tripped themselves. The fireball flew by as I scrambled to stability, but in its place was Karl, baring his sword for the deathblow.

“Yyeeagh!!” he shrieked, eyes and nostrils flaring.

I whipped my hands to a nearby length of flaming lumber and, caring not for the burn, snatched and sent it against Karl’s sword. The silver slash ceased as it sank into the wood, but another instant, and its flames were snuffed out: odyl burst forth from the blade, bludgeoning and blowing me clear away.


I flew two, three waggon-lengths back before crashing and rolling along the road. I was wounded enough: the blow left me dazed and defenceless as I laid upon the dust. Karl came close. His feet stamped with anger. I laboured my way back up.

“Wot’s brought ye back, eh? Wot?” he barked. “I beat ye black n’ blue, I did. Toss’d ye down th’well, left ye t’swim with th’slugs. I did me part in this damn’d play. Why ain’t ye doin’ yers!?”

“Gwofh…!” I groaned as Karl dug into my waist a twisting toe of his sabaton. Reeling, I rolled back down into the dirt.

“Fancy finding you here, Commandant. O’ all places. Oh, o’ all places,” came a grating gremlin of a voice. Ebbe—his own feet broke close ground, and reaching down, he wrested my hair and raised me up. But the motion stopped: into my face flashed the patina of his poleyn.


A knee, right between the eyes.

Concussed, I crumbled to the dust.

Ebbe feigned no mercy, bashing my body with a stamp of his armoured foot. Followed by another. And another. On and on, the trampling continued, each strike shouldering the whole of his hatred.

“Gah… Ghuh…” I hacked and heaved at every blow. Left a rag splayed on the ground, I felt as though not a length of my girth escaped his grudge. Down Ebbe looked, letting fly a gratified puff from his pale grin. He then turned to the others.

“Ah… magicks,” he said, inspired. “Brothers. Let’s have the man unmade with what’s ungotten to ’im, ’ey?”

“Hahah!” Karl cackled nearby. “Yoná’s gift! A fine spade t’scoop out ’is grave with! Ooh, I likes th’sound o’ that, I does!”

From the side of my sight: a silverstaff raised by a sorcerer in their lot. Sickly upon his face was a smirk. And upon Ebbe’s. And Karl’s. And all the rest. A sight I’d seen a thousand times before. The maligning mien of Men, always given to his ungraced son.

“No! Rolf!” Lise yelled from yonder. But as though to disparage her despair, the sorcerer spat out another spell.


A whistle, a wind, and then—a wuthering boom.

I had ducked to the dirt that I might dodge the dire fires, but the spell had the same mind, meeting the ground with me.

Fires flashed. Odyl detonated.

A most simple spell, Gāstċēn. One avoidable given preparation. But to an ungraced such as I, simplicity and avoidance yet yielded a deep punishment upon my person.

Thus was I blown to the winds, as though my body were no more burdensome than a scrap of paper. My limbs flailed violently from the force they scarce resisted, panging with pain of nigh-dismemberment. A horrid heat stung my every seam as I spun clear through the air.

But where I might’ve landed was laid with not ground, but more emptiness: down further I flew, straight into the plaza below. Down, down into its very heart.

The passing gusts stopped, giving way to a thunderclapping clamour. Through some obstacle had my body crashed; the landing coarsely cushioned, I found myself reclined yet reeling amidst plumes and piles of dust and sundered timbers.

Timbers, forming what was once a roof. A roof, once an awning for an altar. An altar, once standing silent in the centre of the plaza—facts remembered as I reasoned why I yet drew breath.

“Wrecking… a relic like this…” I uttered. “…I… I’m earning curses by the minute…”

My attempt at humour, half-mumbled, half-wheezed. But the artless levity gave little relief from my impending reckoning: down the steps followed the silvered figures of Ebbe and his lacqueys.

Nary a hint of haste haunted their strutting pace. Pride was painted upon their simpers, buttressed by unchallenged trust in the triumph sure to come. And come it would, for what foe affrighted their sight but a fey and fangless ungraced?

Indeed… the curtains were finally closing.

Death was come.

This time, I would truly have my heart run through to the hilt. And in my eyes, in my ears, the lingering laughter of my slayers as my final memory.

Such a senseless end it was that loomed but mere moments away.

“…What a life I’ve led… A laughingstock… for the fates…” I whispered, forcing a smile. For when fraught, it is best to break out laughing, as they say. Fortune favours the bold; bark at the beasts and a brilliant idea might dawn upon thee.

What an idea it must be, then, that so strikes asunder this gods-damned deadlock of mine.

Humouring away the last moments of my life, I began grimacing. Not at my dawning death, no, but at some wicked weight bearing down upon my bosom. To it, I turned my eyes.


There, amidst the rubble was a sword.

The same blade blackened by Gweil’ǫrr’s flames.


And not merely amidst the rubble, but almost embraced in my own arms.

The sword once set in the altar—a fates’ jest to have it jolted from its ancient slot by the force of my fall. And oh, what a force I myself felt upon my own bosom, as the boulder of a weapon weighed and weighed ponderously down.

But it was a weight well-warranted.

For the sword was a slab of wolfsteel, stoutest and heaviest of all earthly metals, made more adamantine still by its stygian tempering.


…how curious.


‘…One touches the blacksword on peril of piercing pain…
…and burns most terrible to behold…’


…Yet here it lies, Lise.

Here in my touch.


It was no illusion. No fancy of the faeries.

The blacksword sat stark upon my person.

As I stared into its obsidian span, misty whispers welled up in my ears. A strangeness; folk oft say such phenomena haunt sword-devouts. Might I have attained to such gilt echelons, then?


A pupil best pretends not the paragon. And I am very much a pup of a pupil yet.


These seemed less willful whispers and more wisps of hushed breaths. Breaths bringing dawn to the benighted nature of the sword. A nature now conceding some nakedness to my ken. This, all, was no mere assumption.

This was knowledge.

Groundless, yes, but a knowledge as ungiving as granite.

Knowledge ensuring me thus:


I can fight.

Bear this Blade, and I can fight.

Without Magick.

Without Grace.

I can fight.


What bolstered such belief?

I knew not.

But that it rang with all truth, I knew very well.


Ebbe and his men were now mere paces away.


“…I see… This… this—”

—is where my path ends…

…and another begins.

A rubicon reached after winters of wayless wending.


My deeds on this day are already a dagger twisting in the loin of Londosius. But should I execute this further deed, then it will be no mere dagger in that wound.

For were I to take sword in hand…

…were I to wield Gweil’ǫrr’s bale…

…and hew my hunters…

…these fellows of my flesh…

…my blood…

…then I bare the blade against all my brethren.

I begin anew this battle, flying the Nafílim banner.


As a kinslayer.


And once begun…

…Once I bring both blade and body to battle…

…and task soul and steel to slaughter…

…Once I decide whom I shall defend…

…and to whom I shall deal death…

…that, is when this wavering of mine must end.


Along this path shall await former friends and family alike.

Awaiting upon battlefields, bearing banners belligerent to my will.

And should we meet…

…I must neither rescind my resolve…

…nor stay my sword.


Have I the heart?

To fight them?

To kill them?







…I hear someone.


‘…I, for one, have little doubt that our very own
Rolf shall be blessed with a veritable mountain of odyl…
…A great service he’ll do for the Order…!
…Won’t you, Rolf…?’

‘…Oh come, my love…
…‘Twon’t do for our young man to sooner buckle
under the mountain of expectation, now would it…!
…Already is he prodigious in matters of book and blade both…
…Nevermind a mountain…
…a mere mound suffices…
…for he’ll flourish just the same…’



Mother. Father.

On the eve of the Roun of Orisons.


‘…Listen well, Rolf…
…No doubt the generosity of Yoná’s gift will prove crucial…
…but let it not fray you so…
…Of greatest account is that through the Roun of Orisons…
…you commune with Yoná Herself, and thereby with Her…
…birth a new bond…
…Keep this in your heart…!’

‘…Of course, Lord Father…’


How innocent was I?

That so lost a lot could be lying in wait was never a visiting thought in my mind then.


‘…We shall smite the foul Nafílim whence they fester…!
…That is our solemn duty, to which we pledge our very lives…!
…For King and Country…!
…For Family and our fellow Man…!
…From this day henceforth till the hour of your last breath, my little lions…
…deign not to forget this…!’



And his vaulting words besides, given upon my inauguration at the 5th.

It was my unbending ambition then, to become a knight. One who, with sword in hand and steel in his heart, fights the foes of his homeland.

To defend its affrighted fields. To deliver its forlorn folk.


‘…Is there meaning, then…?
…In going as far as you do…?’

‘…A godless dreg such as you shall not be suffered here…!
…For this battle reckons both the holy and the profane…!’

‘…Such valour…
…one most worthy of praise…’

‘…Were we to stay the path at all costs…
…then surely the day will come…!
…The day when the war is done at last…
…and the Nafílim along with it…!’


…What’s the meaning of all this?

My life, flashing afore my eyes, is it?

You waste your breath.

For I still draw mine, and plan to for a while longer yet. Nay, I’m not laid low; I need but a moment to catch it. That’s all. You well-know the trick. Pretend nigh-defeat till the count before the last, take a breather in the meantime—pugilists employ it often enough. And I’m not one to scorn a sound tactic.


‘…But don’t you forget…
…we owe you much for your deeds on this day, Rolf…
…Thank you…’

…’Tis the Nafílim we speak of here…!
…The nemesis of Man…!
…The kin and kindred of crawling beasts…!
…Our sworn foes from the days of fair St Rakliammelech himself…!’

…That look on your face…
…I spies a tongue well-ready t’spew the same nonsense as ’fore…
…Some poppycock ’bout staying us hands from the civilians….
…Say it ain’t so, Commandant…!’




‘…You killed us…!
…You kidnapped us…!
…But no more…!!’

‘…Son of Man…
…You have heeded your heart…’

‘…Oh…? Then I say…
…quite courageous, this commandant…!
…He is but one…
…yet quivers not…!”


…Enough, I said.

Those I’ve met. Those in whom I’ve confided, with whom I’ve quarrelled—all of them are etched deep into my heart.

I know not your purpose, but I well-know the plot to this puppet show. So cut the strings, I say, whoever you are.

Yes indeed, I know. Well enough, in fact. These thoughts, these words, all have haunted me to hell and back. To have me sit through them again earns naught but my annoyance, you know.



‘…Theo…! Theo…!
…Don’t give up… Theo…!

‘…Uuaaah…! Hic…!
…don’t di—e…!




‘…I know you…’


…Am I so untrustworthy?

I’ve said it once before, haven’t I?

I know.

Of what I believe.

Of what path I must take.

Of what I must do.

Worry not.

I’ll be all right.


…don’t be sad…’


I’m not given to sadness. Nor will I give it.

I’m grown now, after all.

Grown into a man.

A man who keeps his promises.



Wait, I said.

Where are you going?


It was then that Fate thought to fly from my very view. Such flight I dared not suffer. For never was I the sort to let slip the charity of chance.

Hence I reached forth to take her hand.

Oh, with all the might I could muster, I reached long and held strong.

And when next my eyes saw again, I was risen from the rubble, finding fast-bound in my hands the blade of dragon-black.



───────── ∵ ─────────





(Language: Old English; original name: “Fireball”) “Ghost-torch”. Fire-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of a sphere of flames, conjured and lobbed at a target. Explodes and scorches on impact. The ċ consonant is pronounced ch, as in “chair” or “charge”.



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