The Crowning of the Black King

From: Martin Laurie (MLaurie@compuserve.com)
Date: Thu 30 Sep 1999 - 05:21:35 EEST


This is something I wrote a while ago and is available on Wesley Quadros'=

site. However, I want to see if this method of emailing works (not using=

compuserve) without garbling everything. =

Martin Laurie

The Crowning of the Black King

When the host of Sheng came south at last, the people of Alkoth stood
ready. =

For years they had prepared themselves for this day: =

They had followed the rituals of siege. =

They painted the ash of victory upon their faces and bodies. =

They burnt the scars of strength and endurance into their flesh and bone.=
=

They chanted the hundred names of Shargash and enacted all of them to gai=
n
his powers in each.
They placed their hands upon the Green Wall and gave of themselves so tha=
t
its wards and defences remained vibrant and ready.
They sat within the smoke of the Enclosure to feel and smell the skills o=
f
their Mighty
ancestors. =

They listened to the Drum Beat of Senderesh and many wore garb of Killing=

to better slay their foes with their own death.
They ate the flesh of their enemies, taken in raid and battle, to swallow=

their soul-stuff so that all their weaknesses might be apparent and their=

strengths given to the Devourer.

All the world of Yelm stood watching as the host of Demon Lord Sheng came=

at last to the Green Wall to bring the unbreakable city to surrender.

Great was the barbarian host. =

Mighty in numbers.
Ruthless of cause.
Deadly in skill. =

Swift of purpose. =

Potent in magic's.

Their ancestors, allies and demons rode with them or roiled above their
heads and about their snorting mounts. Each wore the feathers and charms=

of their Shamans, bestowed with strange powers and primal forces. All
carried a powerful bow that they could shoot like Lukarius. Scars covere=
d
their faces and bodies from dark rituals, tests of manhood and the vagari=
es
of battle.

At the tip of the vanguard rode Sheng Seleris and his warband. Each was =
a
disciple of his ways. Each was a growing demigod, worshiping the divinit=
y
of their Demon Lord of Discipline. Their steeds pounded the ground with
such force that trees shuddered and parted before them like waves before =
a
prow. At Sheng's passing, the very rock and earth trampled beneath his
mount groaned in fear. The stars looked down upon him with trepidation.
They glittered uncertainly, in fear of his potentials and plans. =

 Sheng Seleris knew nothing of fear. He cared only for discipline and
submission. He rode the world to seek his dominion and destiny. Alkoth h=
ad
resisted all efforts to parley, surrender or fall to his warlords - a doz=
en
had been executed for their failures against the Green Wall. A wall hard=
er
than any iron. After years of war, the city still held its independence
and with it, Henjarl and the folk of the South Oslir. Such defiance coul=
d
be born no more by the Demon Lord. He rode the world in a day to lead hi=
s
host to the final conflict with the god called Shargash.

Within the Green Wall the Red King and the Green King enacted their last
joint rituals, overseen and directed by the King of the Dead. That dark
King was the walker of paths, the seer of deep places and lost souls. He=

commanded the Lords of Ash and the Lords of Death. He knew the names of
the ten times ten demonised deities captured by Shargash in battle and
bound to the service of the city. He was master of the bridge between th=
e
living and the dead, the gatekeeper to the realms of the underworld and t=
he
imperceptor between the savage dark of his deity and the blissful worship=

of his people.

As ever, the defences of Alkoth were deep and layered and none inside the=

walls felt fear at the coming of Sheng, only a savage joy at the feeding
the Devourer would know. =

Yet.

The first defence of Alkoth was swept aside:

War came to the swamps of Biselenslib and she was wounded gravely by the
magic's of the Demon Lord. As the host of Sheng rode without fatigue to
the edge of the swamp Sheng steeled his will and saw the world as he wish=
ed
it. The horde rode as if the plains of their homeland stood firm beneath=

their mounts. Through the power of their remembrance and the discipline =
of
their demigod leader the land itself changed on their path. Like an arro=
w
into the heart of the swamp the horde rode without slowing, without pause=

or respite. The very earth beneath them losing its moisture and turning
hard and baked like the chaparral of their distant origins. =

Their causeway to battle created itself before them and the Jara moaned i=
n
fear as their goddess shuddered from the rape of her body. Unhindered,
unslowed the host of Sheng rode to the wall of Shargash where the Muster =
of
Alkoth and the allies of Henjarl awaited them.

Yet

The second defence of Alkoth was swept aside.

The drums of Alkoth echoed their Doom-Beat against the Horde yet the
Pentans had a music of their own and called it Arrow Storm. Like the buz=
z
of a hive or the whispers of a whipping wind the arrows of the Horde made=

black mist of the sky. A weather of wounding, a sleet of suffering. The=

Muster of Alkoth staggered. Shield and scale stopped much but the power =
of
the Archer was in their arrows and many warriors of the Destroyer fell. =

Returning arrows, javelins and darts left horses unmastered or masters
unhorsed but the exchange was uneven, unfair and unjust. =

With Senderesh fury the Kill You warriors of Alkoth came forward in
counterattack and
 the Horde retreated before them. Each sought death that day to kill the=
ir
foe in return but the exchange was uneven, unfair and unjust. Parting li=
ke
the reeds before a charging bull, the Horde of Pent swarmed around the Ki=
ll
You devotees and let fly their shafts. Magical robes of bronze hardness
shrugged off much but against that hail of ending, severance came quickly=
- - =

Instead of taking a warrior of Sheng with them, the Kill You each took ma=
ny
arrows instead. =

Sheng Seleris sat idle only as long as thought was needed for he had not
won the world without some measure of strategy or sense but his nature
boiled for battle. With a leap his horse lurched to the charge and his
Warband rode with him. His dread horse was called King-Hoof for Sheng ha=
d
once set a hundred Kings in a row from a hundred broken realms and trampl=
ed
them to death with that very mount. It was a scion of the deepest pit. A=

horse of black night, saturnine muscle, fiery eye. Each of his warband
rode a similar, if lesser, mount. The never tired, grew hungry or feared=

the darkness for it leant them succour, surety and strength.

Leaping to the charge the Warband rode like the scouring low wind, the
tearing gust that
sweeps the ground clean. Into the side of the Muster they rode. Into a
wall of humanity they hurled themselves Weapons skittered off them,
magic's petered out. With draconian verve the Warband made the magic of
slaughter. Blood spray, corpse rain, abattoir mist. =

Fearless of Death though they were, the Alkothi learned to fear Sheng tha=
t
day. He was the nightmare within Death. The soul fear, the rule of terro=
r.
=

Like a rock stressed beyond itself, the Muster broke apart. Shattered. =

Scattered, like
leaves in a storm. Like ashes to the wind. Victory seemed certain as t=
he
Horde pursued the remnants to ruin. =

Yet the day was not lost for one part of the Muster hardened like diamond=

under the
pressure and stood obdurate against the tide of battle. The Red King and=

his Maces, the Green King and his Eleven's, stood together symbolising th=
e
dual strength of Shargash - destruction and renewal. They did not run. =

They did not hide. They placed themselves before the Impalers Gate and
welcomed the Horde onto the red-hued maces and flaming spears of purity. =
=

The Red King had summoned the power of Kazkurtum from the underworld to
match the hell strength of Sheng Seleris. With the Destroyer of the
Underworld manifesting in his foe, even Sheng saw reason to pause.

The Green King summoned a thousand ancestors of the fallen to do battle
with the ghosts of the Horde. Screaming and wailing, the denizens of the=

Underworld battled above and among their living counterparts. Thus, was
much of the strength of the Horde lessened and their onset slowed.

Sensing the danger of defeat, the Warband withdrew from their scattered
pursuit of the broken members of the Muster. As if by hidden signal, the=
y
converged on their leader. Then Sheng Seleris led them against the
defenders of the Impalers gate who held it as sanctuary for the retreatin=
g
Alkothi. =

With cacophonous impact the Warband struck full upon them. Relentless
rage, frothing fury, pitiless battle arrayed an orchestra of ire beneath
the Red eye of Shargash. His drumbeat grew in power at the feeding of hi=
s
hunger.

Yet
 The third defence of Alkoth was swept aside.

Sheng Seleris slipped into Hell down a spiral of soul-stuff. He sniffed
and borrowed then dived deep as if plunging for a glittering pearl. =

Passing through many layers of existence, he found his thread and surface=
d
back into the battle that raged around him. Back, but not into his own
body. Instead his soul burnt bright in the body of the Green King. The
Green King whose ancestors were Shengs ancestors when the Golden Perfecti=
on
of Yelm ruled the Universe. Sheng Seleris walked the many millennia of
that ancestry in a moment and manifested in his kinsman. The Green King
was open, he was funnelling the spiritual heritage of his people into
battle and had no defence against the intrusion. His body was stretched =
to
the limit containing the energies of a thousand ancestors. Filled sudden=
ly
with the power of a demigod it burst asunder in an emerald flash. =

Dismay. Lament. Vengeance! With a roar of bloody fury the King of
Destroyers, the
Red King, assailed the physical spirit of Sheng like a tornado. Mighty
demi-deities of the Warband were blasted from his path, struck by the
Skybolt, smashed by his crimson mace. =

Sheng Seleris saw that the power of Kazkurtum was in his foe and saw his
enemy=3Ds error. Sheng Seleris was the Empty Rule. He was the Emperor =
of
Nothing, the Lord of Devastation. Yet his foe attempted to use the power=
s
of the Underworld against him. Powers he had long ago mastered and
subsumed within himself. Instead of a weakness to be exploited, Sheng wa=
s
possessed of an unbreakable strength when assailed in that way. The Red
King swung for Sheng but his mace hit nothing. =

"Your place is not here oh Lord of Destruction, you have done your work."=

said Sheng
Seleris. "Go to your rightful place!" And the earth opened as it had fo=
r
Shargash during the first Ending of the World. The ending where Emptines=
s
ruled and Shargash fell through the cracks of doom into the Underworld. =
So
it was with the Red King as he fell into the earth. Earth split like a
hungry mouth for him in answer to the call of his nature and the path of
his God.

Then the Muster of Alkoth groaned at their loss but a presence came among=

them and they fell silent once more, ready for battle, willing for
conflict.

The King of the Dead walked from the walls and with him came the ten time=
s
ten Demons of Alkoth. Each a deity in their own right, each defeated by
Shargash and bound to his service in ages past. Each controlled by the
words of power which rolled form the lips of the King like a litany of
revenge.

Even the mighty Warband of Sheng Seleris recoiled. The Horde of Pent
shivered in fear and named their ancestors a ward against this foreign
power.

Yet

The fourth defence of Alkoth was swept away.

 Sheng Seleris moved his spirit into the midst of his foes and it engulfe=
d
the King of the Dead like a thick cloud. Coalescing into a bright star o=
f
power it rent a hole in the very air and pulled the King of the Dead with=

him. =

Deep into the depths of darkness they fell and fought. Each knew the
mysteries of death, each was unafraid of the night of the soul. The Kin=
g
of the Dead had walked the many paths of his god and battled grimly for h=
is
people. Sheng Seleris would not be denied victory and so struggled all t=
he
harder for his foes=3D truculence. Deeper and deeper they fell the floor=
 of
existence and then Sheng saw that the mysteries of the King of the Dead
ended with the paths of his myth. Laughing he took the King farther,
beyond those paths. He took the King through the veil of mysteries into
the light of truth and understanding. He showed him the crystal clarity =
of
his god, worshipped in many forms, seen by many peoples but still the
Destroyer, still the Devourer. =

So great was this revelation that the King of the Dead wept at the knew
knowledge. He walked the paths with Sheng and ceased his struggle. He
sought more and Sheng Seleris showed him. Thus the first transcendental
heroquest of Shargash was enacted and the significance of the cycle and t=
he
mysteries of their god lay within reach.

A moment later they stepped back into the material world. Stepped back
into the midst of battle as if they had just left instead of spending an
eternity in understanding. With Sheng strode the last King of Alkoth and=

all watching wondered for he called and end to the combat, as did Sheng. =

He went among his people and told them of his visions. He told them of t=
he
utter darkness and the bleak pits which he had walked and told them of th=
e
insights he had been given and the knowledge of his God that was forever
theirs.

The people of Alkoth called him the Black King thereafter for he had seen=

beyond the final darkness. As Red masters Destruction, Green masters
renewal and the spirit - so the Black can walk all paths back and forth a=
nd
see beyond them into the great mysteries of Shargash.

The Black King called a truce with Sheng Seleris and swore to obey his ru=
le
as long it existed in return for his teachings and those of his Zolathi. =

Sheng Seleris agreed but ordered that Alkoth would war for him against hi=
s
foes and he would appoint a Red King as he willed it. =

Turrog was the first and he was one of the greatest of his Bursts. He is=

remembered and venerated even today.

So it was that Alkoth fell to Sheng Seleris without ever falling at all.

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