Deep within the frigid lochs of the Kingdom Bridgeways stands a fortress upon an islet of rock, named Naith Tuliin. It stands as a single keep, rising sharply from the water, with wall stones mortared smoothly to rock, straight down into the dark waters. The only foothold upon the stones is a pier that lies directly before the fortress gate.
A guardhouse sits on the nearest shore, with a pair of jonboats pulled up on the rocks. On the cliffs surrounding the loch stand stone pedestals holding something covered in sailcloth, the purpose of these platforms is difficult to guess.
Inside the keep is empty with a floor of polished granite. A staircase spirals around the inside wall, leading to a circling stone catwalk which provides access to arrow slits positioned twenty feet up the wall. The single staircase ascends further to a wooden floor thirty feet from the ground. This floor holds a large dim room with a ceiling of stone, spartan furnishings and the fortress's only other exterior door, hanging high above the water.
From the upper door, an exterior stone staircase, without railings, spirals around the outside of the keep, up another twenty feet to the parapet ringing the stone roof.
What lies within the sealed room of stone, forty feet above the rocky islet, is a mystery.
Within the sealed reactor, above the room full of mystics, sweating out their lifeblood to contain her, Irihi seethed. Pressed on all sides by magic-dampening control rods, the Elfwitch strained against the inkblack tatoos which wired her jaw shut, kept her dextrous fingers seized with rigor, and compelled her to dance how and when Lolindir M'lithan demanded.
But her mind was not thusly bound. Trapped within concentric prisons of flesh, tattooed skin, magic, stone, and The Real, she beat against her walls with her hammer of fury and ire.
The Elfwitch had ceased to fear death decades, or aeons ago, depending on how one measured her time. She scoffed at mortals' desperate fingernail clawing at their last slipping moments before she consumed the balance of their years and bent them to her, or her masters' purpose. Irihi had always welcomed death, as ally and friend.
Only she had refused the Un, herself, time and time again. She could not depart this world before she made all of Them leave, first. It did not matter the cost. They might, and had, ripped her eyes from her face. They had taken everything good; twisted and bent it until it was an unspeakable abomination. With every physical insult, with every betrayal, torment, and splintering Irihi had welded her shattered psyche back together with white-hot ire, and forged on. She waded against the tide of fools and cowards who sought to control, destroy, or flee her, and slew them all,
all because she wanted to.
Now, though, she had new purpose.
The new life she was tethered to. The soul she had forged by her brokeness and then had consumed through her repair. He had not passed through the dark gates. The Master Mystic had forced her to eat her child before he was given form. Now he existed only as potential--a dark star of bottomless power from which Greymaster forced her to draw draughts of primal energies for his petty machinations.
Even if Irihi could die, and she did wish for death with every facet of her unbeating coal heart, she would not leave this worlde before she had given her child form.
And murdered every single being who had been touched by, or drunk from his well of power.
A few pebbles bounced down the slick stones of Naith Tuliin, and into the waters below, as the sealed reactor pressed heavier upon the monster within. The heart of another mystic, of the Order of Light, gave out.
Still the Jonboats carried in ancient cordwood grey beards and departed bearing their used-up husks.
Day upon day.
"Impossible!!" The leader of The Order of Light knocked aside the telescope. It tottered then crashed to the flagstones, it's delicate gnome-crafted optics shattering with a chiming tinkle of glass. In a rage, he swept the scrolls and parchments from table to floor, to flutter down around the broken instrument like falling leaves. "It cannot be!!" He shouted.
Below, the skiff, that was the only transport to and from the keep at Naith Tuliin, departed. It carried yet another cloth-shrouded body. Another irreplaceable ancient wizard with his life consumed by trying to maintain control of The Atrocity chained within the tower.
There were fewer and fewer of The Order remaining. She was burning away their lives as if they were thin candles, guttering against the blackness of her hurricane of rage.
His scryings had not been wrong. He had checked and rechecked the scrolls. The wandering stars had promised she would be contained for a thousand years, that Liathilador would reign supreme for a millennia, that he would rule the world; as its hidden hand for the rest of his life.
The zodiac had lied. In a millennia of tracking them, never had the order of the planets changed. Never had his foretellings failed to come to pass as precisely, as accurately, as he engineered them.
It had started out nearly unnoticeable. A comet a few hours early, a dim minor planet where there should have been void. Ever attentive, the Master Mystic had reworked his painstaking calculations. A millennia became nine hundred and ninety-nine years and six months. A minor deviation.
More mystics. More control rods. Increase the schedule of venting her dark energies. These measures restored the heavens' promise of a thousand years of dominance. For a time.
More portants appeared. A star died. A major planet was dragged from its orbit. A comet shone years before it's time. Five hundred years of containment.
A nebula vanished, the moon turned red out of season. More mystics died. Two hundred years.
The heavens were in chaos. Portents of doom shone in the daytime sky for them who knew where and when to look. One year.
"A day." Lolindir sank into his chair. He had never imagined that the portents could change, that the gravity of The Atrocity sealed away beneath him could drag the celestial pillars askew.
But there it lay, plain as day in the scribings upon the scattered parchments. Liathilador would end tomorrow, his nascent reign over Rondor and Elderwood, barely formed, would be broken. Lolindir scoffed. "The worlde…" he did not even yet reign over Ufaeria, and his doom was written in the stars with such certainty that even the dullest astrologer could scry it.
"Master! No!" The head wizard called out from where he hunched, dripping a sweat of blood onto the mandala he traced. “We will lose another--!” Greymaster paid no heed as he summoned the stones to rise from the floor and bear him up to the ceiling of the reactor. The great granite slabs slid apart, the noise of their grinding in disharmony with the groans of the mystics welded to their stations by the portions of her ire they each tried to control. The Master Mystic disappeared into the darkly pulsing heart of the reactor.
Lolindir waved an arm, and the massive control rods floated back, ceasing to press the woman within their crushing closeness. Pale violet irises stenciled with inkblack caught the reflection of the Leader of the Order of Light, glowing white against the purplish miasma of her necromancy.
The Master Mystic regarded the thing suspended in the center of the chamber. She had been a beauty once, and that was reflected in the body that hung pierced by hook and wrapped in tight cruel chain. But the Wizard could see beyond the physical manifestation of pale flesh, to the great streamers of rage and pain that twisted and writhed against the magery woven by the dying sorcerers below. Irihi's presence was like great looping bolts of cloth, lifted and billowing in an unfelt wind, or perhaps an immense writhing serpent, pinned at the head where the Inkblack tattoos affixed her to both the physical plane, and to do his bidding.
“Hear me, Irihi!” Lolindir spoke to the restrained necromancer. “Yew who have corrupted the heavens and earth with your evil! Speak as I compel yew!” The master mystic put both compulsion and magickal command into his voice. “How does Liathilador survive yew? What compels yew to cease these struggles? SHOW ME!" His staff flared bright in the corrupted dimness of the reactor.
The stones of the walls, floor, ceiling all dissolved away as a vision poured, unbidden, from The Atrocity bound before the Greymaster. Liathilador sat beneath the burnished sun, shining with the splendor befitting the capital of the worlde. The glistening tower of the Order of Light shone with the glory of total dominion over all the lands.
The peaceful, powerful scene lasted only a moment before great clouds of corruption boiled over the peaks of the Orodor, sweeping down upon the capital. Where the grey and purple clouds touched the trees of the Lesser Falcon forest, the foliage burst into intense conflagrations of purple fire. A great wailing could be heard as the cloud suffused the city. Granite dissolved as sand in water under the onslaught. The great dome of the citadel collapsed inward upon itself as the city was wiped away, along with every soul dwelling therein.
Irihi laughed, reveling in the dark glory of the mad chaos that would soon befall Greyhaven, even though the defiant gesture saw her black blood drawn by her tattoos as those below struggled to reestablish control. The immense chains binding the slip of an elfmaid creaked and groaned as she surged forward.
Disturbed, Lolindir loosed his anger to flow through his staff of The Order. His wizardry flared brighter and brighter until it washed away the tragic scene unfolding around them. "LIES!" He thundered, anger at his own impotence raging through the hands that held the staffed. "There is a way. SHOW ME, WITCH!" A lightning bolt of purest white flagellated the restrained necromancer.
In the chamber below, one of the ancient mystics burst into flames, even while still welded to his station. The attendents' desperate efforts to aid him did nothing to quench the necromantic fire that melted his flesh and bone into the throne where he died.
"no. ways." The Atrocity's lips thinned as a rictus shark grin overspread her inked face.
Lolindir's magical tantrum subsided. He knew she had, even bound as she was, bent his own power, twisted it until it killed one containing her. More of that, and the portents would be made wrong once more; Liathilador would not last out the day.
"Then tell me…" the Master Mystic's voice was low and deadly. There was no more facade of goodness and purity, only his core laid bare as the elfwitch bound before him. Beneath the spiked butt of his staff, a dark star of primal necromancy twinkled. With teeth bared in an animalistic grimace, Lolindir bore down upon it. Like a crystal globe, the star cracked.
The vision of destruction vanished. The billowing shrouds of ire and Magick vanished into the sorceress as a single sharp inhaled gasp. All of it, the resistance, the murderous intent, the sobbing laughter was drawn into a single witheld beat of her cracked coal heart.
"Do I now, at long last, have yer attention?" Lolindir hissed. He knew, if he pressed even an iota more of Magick into the fragile dark star, it would detonate, bringing about worse destruction to Liathilador than Irihi's vision. Of that cataclysm, she would be the only, desolate, survivor, once the shockwaves of the potential soul of her never born child dissipated in the tumbling down Orodor and the boiling western seas.
"Good." Lolindir's mad anger had scoured away his veneer of control. What remained was the corrupted center, and the only question he truly held in his shriveled heart. "Then how do I save myself?"
This time The Atrocity did not struggle against the compulsion of the runes. She drew in a long unneeded breath and, releasing it, allowed the terrible visions of those bloodsoaked days to pour forth. This was the genesis pain held so long, so near her core. It was what she feared most in the worlde.
Save one thing.
Lolindir was not himself. His arms were svelte with fine-fingered dextrous hands, so talented. So capable of the supple cupping and wending of the Magicks of lives sacrificed. They were also soaked in elfblood, each one, to the elbow. The vitae of her victims dripped from the sharp athane clutched in his nerveless fingers, from the coal black strands come loose, in the violence, from her tightly bound tresses.
Another mother stood before him. So fertile, so rife with life, vitality, and potential. She was swollen with her pregnancy, her doe-eyed daughter clutching her hand and hiding behind the swell of incipient child.
Just one more.
One more to complete the barrage that would force the unstoppable daemon back into the abyss.
He knew from her experience, only one blow would be necessary, so tightly bound were all three souls. Mother doing what must needs be done to save a thousand more just like her, holding one life within her and the absolute frightened trust of another in her hand, pressing against her side.
Not again and again and again and again and again.
It was a mercy.
If she did not sacrifice them their deaths were still assured. They would be legion, the passing through the dark gates would be accompanied by unspeakable pain and horrors.
She would give them sanctuary in death.
All her coven had balked, some earlier, some later, but not Irihi. She had honored their requests and taken their lives, too, to be flung against the greater fiends, so they would no longer have to kill the resolute, the resigned, the crying, the fearful and the enraged. But most most most of all no more mothers and their frightened children.
Lolindir was the last alive in the town. Surrounded by bodies, he was a black-haired waif of a filter, sorting the quick and the dead. None quick, all their mortal coils laying where she had struck them down.
Save these three. Save these last, for whom there was no question as to what the Necromancer would do to them.
No. She could not.
The athane dropped from his frozen hand, the ancient land of D’Or Oolim vanished, replaced by the stones of the reactor, which parted before the fleeing Master of the Order of Light. Behind him, the control rods pressed in close upon The Atrocity once more.
Greymaster passed the smoldering wrecks of two more mystics in the smokey cooked-flesh control room of death. The door to the outside of the keep banged open as he fled to the top of the tower all while trying not to look as though he now ran from that vision of existential horror experienced within the reactor core. Yet, even as he fled, the kernel he had sought seated itself firmly within his mind. At long last, he knew what he must do to survive the cataclysm to come, when Irihi Spokelse broke her bonds.