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Prophecy of the Storm PDF Print
Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Beware the fatherless son of the childless father.

Beware the blade that cannot pierce the purest of hearts.

 

Previously: Forward to the Storm of Vengeance

 

It is told that Rademund – first Duke of Quenelles – left his young cousin Anthony Raphael de Louer to care for his lands while Rademund rode with the Companions. It is also told that Anthony was at Rademund’s side many times during his forays through the Loren. It is rumoured that Anthony must have found love inside that forest – for after one such journey, Anthony never was seen with a woman again.

 

Bretonnian Calendar: Year 7

The Loren was in peril – besieged by all manner of chaotic malice that could be mustered against her. The elves of the forest and their forest kin were holding an unsteady stalemate against the waves of Chaos. While the main force of Quenelles campaigned with the new King, Anthony de Louer held a small contingent of his men at the wood’s edge to stop the beasts from entering Bretonnia. Woe was the fate of Chaos that emerged from that dreaded forest for they ran straight into the waiting lances of Anthony’s personal guard.

The smoke of hundreds of fires clouded the sky as the Loren burned from Chaos’ latest assault. In the earliest of dawn a lone rider emerged from the Loren carrying two small bundles. When the rider broke through the fog of smoke, Anthony’s front line lieutenant realized that it was none other than the Enchantress herself borne on the bare back of Silvaron. The Word of the Lady broke through the forest and rode hard through the parting Bretonnian force – headed straight for Castle de Louer.

The front gate steward announced her coming as the gate was pulled open. The Enchantress rode through without hesitation – without ever slowing her pace. Anthony was at the commons to greet her.

“You must protect them,” she whispered to him. “The danger in the forest is too great. We cannot ensure their safety.”

Anthony took the bundles and looked deep into the Forest Maiden’s eyes. Never before had he seen this strange expression about her – reluctance and fear…

 

Bretonnian Calendar: Year 9

With the return of Rademund to Quenelles, a massive Bretonnian battalion pressed into the western edge of the Loren. It was just the anvil that the denizens of the forest needed to quell the Chaos threat. Pressed between the two armies, the Chaos horde was all but vanquished. The two year assault on the Loren was over.

Anthony Raphael de Louer once again heard the gate steward’s call. A herald from the Loren had arrived – riding hard. He suspected an accolade for the help from Bretonnia during the war – instead the words he heard sank his heart into oblivion.

“Greetings – Master de Louer,” the exhausted elf said. “Many are the thanks that the Loren extends to her truest of allies.”

Anthony bowed his grateful acceptance.

“But,” the elf interjected, “my purpose here is dread – I fear. I bring a message from your Fay Enchantress.”

“What news have you – for it has been nigh two years since we have seen sight of her,” Anthony responded.

“The children have passed from this world – valiant knight. Darkness fills her heart.”

Anthony’s face went ashen – his eyes bulged and without another word or look at the elf, he dashed to the north tower – racing as fast as he could to the nursery.

As he burst through the door, the nurse turned to face him. Her face was wet from tears. She held two tiny bundles in her arms.

“What has happened?” Anthony demanded.

“I… I… don’t know,” the nurse stammered. “They – just – stopped breathing.”

Anthony screamed, “NNNOOOOO!!!!!!”

He crept forward and gently took the children from the nurse’s arms. Looking down at their peaceful faces it seemed as though the world had stopped. Anthony could feel his heart pounding. His breathing was as loud as the hammering hooves of warhorses charging. He started to shake – a tremor making its way from his waist – through his chest – through his arms, his neck and out his lips – “AAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!”

The nurse dropped to her knees in fear, “Master – forgive me. I never left their side. I did nothing…”

“OUT!” Anthony screamed. His mind and heart were consumed – crossed between grief and rage. He felt as though his mind might explode. He needed to be alone – to try to come to grips with what had happened.

As the nurse closed the door behind her – Anthony sank to the floor. He held the babes close, expecting to hear them coo. He watched for any sign of life – but none was to be had.

As the day stretched into night – Anthony wept with grief – the sound of which filled the keep with his somber disdain.

No-one dared disturb him through that night and when he did not come forth from the nursery the following morning, word was sent to his cousin the Duke.

Not more than an hour had passed since that dispatch was sent when Anthony emerged from the room. He held the two children in his arms – carefully wrapped in morning blankets – as if they were to go on a sweet morning’s stroll.

“Master,” the children’s nurse timidly began.

Anthony simply passed by her – without any sign of acknowledgement.

The same treatment greeted any of the servants who tried to comfort their grieving lord. It wasn’t until Anthony reached the stable to prepare his mighty white stallion for travel that he spoke. Confronted by his first lieutenant, he said, “Tell my cousin that the Vow is false. I denounce the Lady and welcome her grievous penalty.”

The lieutenant was stunned. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.

“My lord,” he beseeched.

“Tell him,” Anthony interrupted. He gingerly placed the children at the front of the saddle and mounted the horse.

Dust covered the lieutenant’s face as the First Brother of the Loren drove his heels into his steed. The gate opened wide to permit its lord’s egress – and Anthony rode hard – direct into the waiting wrath of the Loren herself.

 

From beneath the parapet a sly smirk crossed Di’Ghean’s grim, pale face.

‘My work i-s-s-s s-s-s-so s-s-s-satis-s-s-sfying. Dis-s-s-sent will be s-s-s-simple. The S-S-S-S-orc-c-c-ceres-s-s-ss will be plea-s-s-s-sed,’ he mused. 

 He left the small empty vial behind a stone and made his way back to the seemingly abandoned Skaven tunnels.

 

Anthony drove his steed deep into the depths of the Loren – all the while screaming at the top of his lungs, “Enchantress! Enchantress! Damn the will of the Lady! Damn the Asrai! Damnation to life itself! Damn you – Enchantress!”

The branches whipped both him and the horse till at last his courageous steed reared against its rider’s will.

Lord de Louer somehow managed to keep hold of his precious cargo, dismounted the horse and continued his wild charge into the forest on foot. Still the branches whipped at his staggering frame.

At last he came upon a small clearing – a gentle hill rose at its centre. The sun shone through the tree tops – illuminating the whole area in a whimsical, faerie-like dance of light.

He grasped two branches from a nearby tree as he made his way to the top of the hill. Once he reached it – he drove the branches into the earth – crossing each other at their peaks.

“Kristian,” he muttered as he laid one of the children under the first branch. “D’Orealle,” as he gently lowered the other. He kneeled there for a moment – reflecting on the joy the two had brought him for such a short time.

A twig snapped behind him.

Spinning, he pulled his sword from its sheath – the sweet sound of the steel sliding free seemed to bring a fresh calmness to the veteran warrior. Across the clearing he watched them emerge from amongst the trees. Their foul stench – from even such a distance – nearly making him retch.

With heads of demons and horns of goats – the fur covered and man-like Gors, Ungors and Bestigors crept out of the forest. They wore armour of leather, chain and plate while carrying an assortment of spears, axes, maces and the like. They kept their distance, hugging the edge of the forest – but they kept appearing. More and more made their way out onto the field – perhaps sixty or more to the quick count of heads – snorting and growling and barking out their hatred at the lone human on the top of the hill. The entire glade was encircled.

The beasts began to yelp and howl as they parted and opened an avenue out of the forest. The monster that passed through it dwarfed them all. The creature had the same general appearance but stood easily three to four hands again as high. Its face was shielded in iron and it held two war-torn axes in its massive hands.

The Wargor barked a guttural command and the rest of the herd went silent – as silent as the heathens could get…

“Human,” the creature growled in the worst man-voice Anthony had ever heard. “Give us children and you die fast. Fight and we eat you alive!”

Lord Anthony Raphael de Louer let a slow smile cross his face.

“The Asrai will soon come and your time will end foul one! Until then – come forth – my steel is hungrier than you!”

The beast herd charged forward at the command of the Wargor. The first to arrive at the top of the hill found a shield on edge – ripping open its throat. The one right beside it received a sword through a slit in its chain – under its arm – and deep into its chest.

Anthony spun to find a smallish Ungor reaching down for his dead daughter. A fraction of a second later the creature was rolling down the hill – lamenting the loss of its hands.

Time slowed to a dead crawl for Lord Anthony de Louer as he fought the battle of his life. This was one for the history books he even laughed while taking a mace to the leg but delivering an upper deathly incision in response.

He was wearing down – and he felt that his skill would soon begin to fade.

Already ten or more of the foul monsters had fallen to his blade – his own wounds still mostly minor.

Without warning – a hammer found its way through the mass of bodies. It had clear passage to the head of the brave knight – and he saw it a moment too late. His sword met an exposed arm of a different beastman as he tried to raise it up to fend off the hammer. ‘It ends now,’ he dreaded.

Suddenly – a crystal blue shield manifested out of nothing and stopped the hammer blow from reaching its target. Anthony realized that his Lady had not deserted him.

With renewed vigor the lord battled back – but he was continually overwhelmed simply by the brute force and strength of numbers that the enemy held. Yet - again and again he found himself saved by crystal shields and fields of unknown force that kept the death blows from landing.

At some point during the fight – Anthony realized the error that he had made. ‘What have I done? What have I said? My Lady – oh how unworthy I am of you.’

The beasts withdrew. Too many of their number had fallen to this single warrior and the invisible forces that protected him. The Wargor snarled and stamped his hooves not two paces away from the Bretonnian lord.

Anthony was breathing hard. ‘How can this be? I should surely be dead.’

Then the grief overtook him. First his loss of the children he had grown to love as his own – then the realization of the love of the Lady whom he had forsaken.

He could bear it no longer. With a final look at his children the lord fell to his knees – dropped his shield and his sword – and offered his neck to his enemy with head bowed.

The beast herd roared with triumph. The Wargor strode forward. It raised one of its axes to deliver the final blow...

Suddenly the trees surrounding the clearing burst apart. Dryads, Kin and an entire battle-force of cloaked elves swarmed the field. The beastmen were dying at sight. The Wargor took a quick look at his warriors’ demise and turned back to the sobbing human. He raised his axe to strike – but found no neck when it landed. The axe buried itself into the dirt as the knight’s hunting knife found its way into the belly of the beast. The beastman hero fell backward in disbelief – only to be greeted by the ripping limbs of dryads – eagerly welcoming his stumbling form.

Anthony slowly rose from his knees – his storm of vengeance had passed. He dropped his knife and looked down upon his friends that he had just so recently denounced. His mind was numb. He simply stood there – waiting for… something.

Three beautiful Elvin maidens came up the hill to the knight and lightly took his hands. They led him off of the hill – into the forest – and away from the scene of bitter death and torment.

The rest of the Loren force also left the clearing – dragging the carcasses of the massacred beast herd with them. Only the makeshift graves and two tiny bodies remained in the grove.

 

She slowly came out from the trees and made her way up to the children - Silvaron waiting at the wood's edge.

Kneeling, she looked down upon their innocent faces.

A single tear fell. The only tear she had ever shed.

The drop hit one of the branches and began to roll down until it came to where the two branches crossed.

Here the drop split in two – then the two drops carried on down each of the branches.

The drops did not travel to the ground – but instead they seemed to get stuck and started to hang – gathering weight and form until they both dripped off.

The tear drop from Kristian’s branch fell to the lips of his sister.

The tear drop from D’Orealle’s branch fell to the lips of her brother.

In unison – the First Son and First Daughter of the Ra’ede… gasped for air.

 

Coming Next: Herdstone

 

See also: Table of Contents and Discussions at the Critics' Arena

Last Updated ( Saturday, 08 November 2008 )
 
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