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Damon Dane

Ragnarok Fantasy Part Ten

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DAMON DANE'S RAGNAROK

A vision appeared before Gothia’s mind’s eye; a black stone bridge rising from a stormy sea, a bridge of giants a hundred feet high and a hundred miles from end to end, spanning the Straits of Darkness and joining Bosoboloria to the Doom Walk, binding that wild and ancient continent to Gehenna like a beautiful bride tethered to a beast of the vilest evil. The bridge ends were guarded by shiny black skulls a hundred feet high, with a gaping open mouth arched like a castle gate, while the pillars, arches, and spans of the bridge were carved in the shape of millions upon millions of human skulls.

For every sinner who has ever fallen into hell, Stargard said telepathically. This is one of the Shadowgates through which the hordes of Gehenna marched in the Chaos War to overrun the Holy Empire and lay waste the realms.

Gothia floated in emptiness as he beheld this pathway to hell on earth. He recalled an ancient prophecy which told how any man who attempted to cross this bridge, or who even so much as touched it, would at once have his soul sucked out of him by the hellish anti-mojo known as the souldeath darkness; would die horribly and be respawned as a darkron, or else would remain imprisoned on the bridge itself, and though he might be standing exactly where he had been just moments before, he would have entered another reality, and would no longer belong to the world of the living. Nor would he be able to turn around and go back through the skullgate: he would have no choice but to follow the Doom Walk eastward to Gehenna, or spend eternity wandering the Bridge of Darkness as a hungry ghost, crying tears of longing for his lost soul, while the winds howled, the waves crashed, and the souls of the damned wandered past unseeing, unheeding.

Gothia had seen the bridge before, had sailed beneath it twice, for the Sardar mining colony of Uruk lay on the far side, and taking this dangerous passage was the only way to navigate the Straits of Darkness and reach those hot and craggy gold-rich mountains. Just as he remembered, the bridge was wreathed in a foul storm, the waves hammering with fury against the black stone, as if the very earth itself wished to cast this abomination from its face. But the storm had raged here non-stop for a thousand years, and the stone yet stood uneroded, protected by dark necromancy of tremendous power.

So foul was the storm that only rarely could sailors on ships sailing beneath the bridge catch sight of the dark spans above, while most barely glimpsed its massive pillars though the mist and spray, from which emanated an eerie sound said to be the wailing souls of the damned, a haunting lament, but also an intoxicating siren song which had lured many a sailor to his doom.

Among the wise old sea captains who knew the terrible truth of what this bridge really was, few would willingly sail beneath it, and those who did took great care to steer clear of the pillars - though that was no mean feat, the way these wild seas crashed against them. Never would they willingly touch those columns of black skull stone: if shipwrecked it was better to drown and die with a clean soul, than to scramble onto them and be possessed by the souldeath darkness, adding your voice to the wailing chorus of those trapped within.

Gothia did not touch the bridge, or even mentally will himself to float towards it, for he could feel the slithering souldeath darkness emanating from it in waves. He did not want to be here, even in his dreams.

The Bridge of Darkness, he thought.

Yes, Stargard replied. Gothia could not see the Warlock, but could sense his presence everywhere and in everything, for this was partially his dream, his memory, and partially Gothia’s own connection to the higher powers that made this place possible. Built by the Destroyer of Worlds in the Age of Chaos.

I knew I would someday return here, Gothia thought, It haunts my dreams.

You feared that you would someday return here.

Aye, I feared that.

And do you still fear?

Aye.

But why? What are you afraid of?

A nameless fear, a fear I do not understand, but it is there nonetheless.

You fear that which mortal man cannot understand. You fear the souldeath darkness, which emanates from this bridge like invisible claws grasping your spine. The same power flows from the weavers of darkness when they summon up their powers of black sorcery from the pit of hell. Most of all it comes from the Tower of Sorrows Endless, high above the damned city of Molothsothboloth.

Why do ye show me this thing?

For years you fought against the darkrons in the mountains and deserts of Uruk. Those darkrons all marched across this bridge: that is how they reached you.


This seemed to Gothia insufficient cause to dredge up unpleasant memories. Uruk is quiet now, he thought. That war is over. In his modest way, he neglected to mention the fact that he was the legendary samurai general whose dashing leadership had, in a vicious three-way war, broken both the extremely strong Gehennan slave-raider legion of which they were speaking, and the imperialistic army of Great Ophir, which for a hundred years had ravaged the land not for Sardar blood, but for the Bosobolorian gold that the Sardar miners were digging out of the Mazandarani Mountains by the barrow-load, (although of course obtaining the latter necessitated spilling the former). Had Gothia been more egoistic he might have made the well-justified claim that he personally had finished that war, but he was not egoistic; he was too interested in the world around him to be concerned with the welfare of his ego, so he just said, That war is over.

Is it?

Mostly. Darkrons continue to harry the borders of Uruk, and sometimes raid the outlying mines for sacrifices, but that slaver legion is now so depleted as to be strategically insignificant; its presence on the Uruk border is just a nuisance, no more troubling than the buzzing of mosquitoes - irritating, aye, but irrelevant in the overall picture. Those of my people who work that hard land expect to sometimes be bitten by bugs. Anyway, the darkrons no longer dare approach our mountain fortresses. We smashed them, and then while they and the Ophirians were crying over their wounds, we built Uruk into an impregnable fortress, which is why they turned their attentions further westward, to Erlendor. Perhaps the blood of Erlen tree-dwellers is sweeter than that of dirty Sardar miners and samurai sweating in the mountains.

Perhaps,
Stargard said, Maybe they have turned to the west, but the war in Uruk is not over, it has merely changed direction, as all wars do from time to time. You won a campaign, but the war goes on, and soon the very same war shall spread to all of Xanadu. Darkrons are massing to swarm down into Barbary through the Nothomir Pass, a mighty host, strong enough to overwhelm even the Barbarians. And they shall be only the beginning of the horror, the vanguard of the darkness spreading across the entire world to gather sacrifices for Molothsothboloth.

Stargard paused, as if reluctant to continue. Then when the 666th year comes, they shall be joined by 666 armies of horror.

Behold.

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