5) The First Trilogy: Lyrics

 

The Chronicles of Bal-Sagoth
Book I: “A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria”
By Byron A. Roberts

 

Hatheg-Kla

The Aspirant: Praise the Crystalline Oracle! I am blessed with enlightenment! Hark, Ancient Ones! Hear me in your ebon vaults beneath the earth! Hear me in your hoary tombs beneath the waves! Hear me in your deathless slumber! Hearken! Soon, that slumber shall cease, and you shall rise… rise as avenging avatars! Your victory shall be absolute, and a new era of human obeisance shall dawn! The universe awaits your glorious resurrection! Purge the world! Cleanse all creation with your pitiless purity! Praise the crawling chaos! The time has come! Reveal the sinistrous power of the Six Keys!

Dreaming of Atlantean Spires

From Volume IX of the Arcane Histories of the Great Antediluvian Witch-Wars:

All witches fly to me…

I have torn the veil of dreams, enraptured by (the gleam of) moon-frost’s caress,
My heart is held in icy thrall, the horned moon’s sweet enchantment,
The Topaz Throne is beckoning, the jewelled sword awaits my grasp,
The dreaming gods now grimly brood in the silence of Atlantean spires.
The sky is black with chaos-fiends, spellcraft rides with witch-storm’s wings,
Beneath the vaults of time-lost tombs, sorcerers summon the Shadow-Kings.

All witches fly to me!

Witch of heather, moor and sea, come lie with me as twilight falls,
Grant me the black Elven sword and the draught of immortality,
The scent of night about your flesh, enfold me in this mist of lace,
Your lips grow red by candlelight, my beloved is raven-tressed.
The sky is black with chaos-fiends, spellcraft rides the witch-storm’s wings,
Beneath the vaults of time-lost tombs, sorcerers summon the Shadow-Kings.

And now the blossoms fade,
Lost within your dark eyes (I drown within those ebon eyes)
The sweetest tears I taste (glistening upon your lips),
This ichor of your kisses…

Weave thy dark spells, ‘neath the bright moon,
Witch-fire is glimmering through sunken marble halls.

The Black Gate opens… blood sates the Ebon Blade…

 

Spellcraft and Moonfire (Beyond the Citadel of Frosts)

From Volume XI of the Arcane Histories of the Great Antediluvian Witch-Wars:

Black stone summoning the eternal power of the winter moon…

Fen-witch revel in ancient spellcraft, beneath a horned and waning moon,
Enchantress, heather-bride a’ dreaming, the beckoning gloom enthralls me,
The Lord of Wolves haunts the forest, in brooding winter’s icy rapture,
Hoarfrost glimmers ‘neath the moon, sorcery opens fiend-haunted pathways before me!

Black Stone summoning the eternal power of the winter moon…

Enthralled by evil lotus-dreams, witches’ eyes agleam with candle-flame,
Nine Elven stones beneath the waves, whispered spells in serpent-tongues,
Gleaming sword in ice enshrined, Chaos-Throne witch-fire entwined,
Marsh grasses swaying ‘neath the moon, dark spellcraft summons the Black Gate before me…

Icy waters whispering, Tower of Silence hides the shadow-key,
Ember-trees haunt my fevered dreams, Moon-Bride, sing thine dark enchantment.

The moonless abysses of mid-earth, black basaltic halls of night,
Ghoul-plagued darkness, vale of fiends, amorphous liege bloats and breeds.

Elder shadows writhing before the silvern gate of eternal winter,
Dark shapes entwine the mist-veiled cromlech,
Dying torchlight gleams on silent black waters,
Fen-wolves sing to the gibbous moon…

Arise from dreams, shape-shifting fiends,
Dance madly ‘neath the moon,
To the pipes of bone, anoint the (witches’) stone,
Beneath the ancient tomb.

A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria

Before the Third Cataclysm:

Dark baleful shades astride the mystic heath,
Old land’s enchantments, wolf-eyes agleam,
The moon slips ‘neath the darkling sea,
The trees sing enthralling chants as the old gods dream…

As a black moon broods over Lemuria, ebon witchfire enshrouds the gleaming citadels,
Sinistrous shadows rise from the vaults of the dreaming elder gods,
Ophidian eyes glimmer through the icy whispering moon-mist…

Shimmers of black in the massing dark, moon-frost glistens upon my tongue,
The wraiths have gathered beneath the oak, my soul encased in antediluvian steel,
The shades of pallid night descend, to the ride the slime-flecked jewelled halls,
Enshrined in ice and witches’ spells, and silence falls on the marble walls.

By the eldritch glow of black moonfire, the frost-shrouded trees whisper of silent paths,
Brooding shades rise forth from the night-dark sea, a black tide of fiends erupts from the ebon gate.

Shimmers of black in the massing dark, moon-frost glistens upon my tongue,
The wraiths have gathered beneath the oak, my soul encased in antediluvian steel,
The shades of pallid night descend, to ride the slime-flecked jewelled halls,
Enshrined in ice and witches’ spells, and silence falls on the marble walls.

Winter moonlight gleams through crooked boughs,
The icy caress of night entwines the eon-veiled Obsidian Tower,
The whisperings of ancient tongues are borne upon the winds,
Dark time-lost spells hold the key to the frost veiled Gate of the Black Moon…

And in the dark ethereal mists of winter dreams,
The ebon waters of enlightenment gleam ‘neath the black moon,
And the Valley of the Silent Paths beckons…

Slumbering upon the throne of moon-caressed ice,
I have supped deep the draught of white vapours.
Shimmering upon the gleaming garlanded marble,
A single strand of glimmering gossamer…
Beneath the vaults of shadow-haunted tombs,
I see the fire that burns like the black heart of night.
In brooding and sombre visions I hear cries,
Enthralling cries ‘neath this frost moon rising.
I hear the slithering of forces that seethe serpentine in black gulfs,
In the dark and silent places…
The Whisperer in Crystal speaks in dreams,
Of silken shadows, and the softest breath of dark enchantment,
Of ancient cyclopean temples, raising jewelled spires to the stars.
There is witchcraft in the moon,
And a brooding silence reigns over the woods.
My storm-forged sword (stained with the blood of a thousand slain foes),
Ensorcelled by eon-veiled incantations.
Dark wizards’ spells entwine me in ravening shackles,
And black roses draw my blood with thorns as sharp as serpent’s tooth…
I fall into the rapturous embrace of sloe-eyed witches,
The moon gleaming upon their ivory bosoms,
And descend into the still, icy waters of the lakes.
Beyond the veil of the North-Winds, I await the emissaries of the tyrant,
The wind whispering across the everlasting snows…
My slumber is as light as a wolf’s.

Serpents coil entempled ramparts
Of the sunken jewelled cities,
Wolves of winter’s moon are roaming
The temples of the Heather Gods.
Great worm whose tail rests in its mouth,
The circle-without-end burns bright,
Brood o’er the far night’s distant vale,
And shifting heather hill’s wandering light.

Like snow that falls on the sea,
Like smoke that rides upon the breeze,
Like hoarfrost that melts before the sun,
Now silence broods over Lemuria…

Shimmers of black in the massing dark, moon-frost glistens upon my tongue,
The wraiths have gathered beneath the oak, my soul encased in antediluvian steel,
The shades of pallid night descend, to ride the slime-flecked jewelled halls,
Enshrined in ice and witches’ spells, and silence falls on the marble walls.

“R’acan Ahalgana chamiabac ahalmez ahatocob tocapa chiamiaholom ahchami.”

As a black moon broods over Lemuria.

 

 

Enthroned in the Temple of the Serpent Kings

The Chronicler of Antediluvia: And lo, the ancient Serpent Kings, they who strode Pangaea like mighty ectothermic colossi and waged ceaseless war with the First Ones, laying siege to the glorious Antarctic Megalopolis and the abyssal bastions of the Inner World during ages past, did build upon the ravaged surface of the hoary earth their greatest cyclopean shrine, the aeon-cloaked Temple of the Serpent Kings, hewn from shimmering meteoric rock and the adamantine bones of the saurian titans who roamed the globe before the First Cataclysm reshaped the face of Creation. Long did they endure, fortified against the Ice Ages and the myriad climactic upheavals which scarred the Tellurian Sphere, watching from their subterranean vaults and their mountains of power as the children of Man crawled to their prophesied ascendancy; and in their lava-kissed lairs the Serpent Kings plotted and schemed with ophidian malice and that supreme cold blooded patience natural to their elder race, awaiting the day when the Earth would be theirs once again and they would surge forth from their basaltic fortresses like a vengeful and venomous wave of fanged fury and righteous rage to crush the cities of the ape-spawn beneath their scaled and star-shod feet. And as inscribed in the Chronicles of the Great Wars of the Ancient World, standing steadfast against the ophidian onslaught would be the radiant Bright-Anya and the Spitfire Cavalry of the fabled Draconis Albionensis! And yet that is a saga for another time. Know also that it was written in the Antediluvian Scrolls that long before the advent of the Third Cataclysm, the villainous Lord Angsaar, Bane of the Atlantean Kings, Scourge of Lemuria, Arch-foe of the Immortals of Ultima Thule, did engage his Immortal Nemesis within the coruscant walls of the monolithic Temple of the Serpent Kings, by then long since given over to the pitiless embrace of the endless epochs of ice, and that they did wage ruinous red war over not only the arcane lore and sorcerous artefacts enshrined within, but also over the fate of the perfidious Black Witch who had appointed herself the fell guardian of that most shadow-wreathed and time-lost of sites…

Ancient cromlech carved of ice, etched against a glimmering sky,
Beneath the pale moonlight, the witch enthralling, (like the sublime) scent of black lotus,
Hailing a black sun with ebon rays, hailing a black moon as onyx agleam,
The dark horn sounds ‘cross the nighted vale, shadows call in this bleak winter’s dream.

I seize the throne round Dagon’s stone, dark hordes arise ‘neath winter skies,
Forged ‘neath the moon, by Skulthur’s tomb, blood-oath sealed, by frost-veiled steel.

White flames dancing on the snow, the witch-fire gleams through northern skies,
The frost of heather upon her tongue, whispering dreams of Atlantean spires,
Ruby lipped, midnight tressed, eyes as black as raven’s wing,
Flesh so pale as dawn-frost gleaming, kisses sweet like moon-dew’s tears.

Deep within the glacial ice-veiled temple,
Ancient enchantments summon the shades of the dreaming Serpent Kings…
And the Ophidian Throne once again draws power from the moon-shrouded crystal…
Mystic steel is anointed by the crimson wine of battle, and blood reddens the gleaming snow.

Storm-borne bride of winter’s fire, serpent-witch of the whispering fens,
Veils of scarlet and sable, blood spilled in the vault of night,
Frost-garlanded, the mind-binding glimmer of tear-filled ophidian eyes,
The gleam of winter moonlight upon black waters, nighted spells of the enchantress.

Scourge of Angsaar (the Dark Liege of Chaos), wielder of the Black Sword,
Immortal Lord of Darkmere, Serpent-Witch ensorcel me.

Black Sun… Black Moon!

(The chronicles of Lord Angsaar and his Immortal Nemesis continue in the Hyperborean Empire Trilogy, “The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire”, The Dark Liege of Chaos is Unleashed at the Ensorcelled Shrine of A’zura-Kai, and “Cry Havoc For Glory and the Annihilation of the Titans of Chaos”, recounted on the second, third and fifth Bal-Sagoth albums.)

 
Shadows ‘neath the Black Pyramid

Hearken to the grisly murmur of nameless fiends, black jaws drooling blasphemy,
Beyond the witch-song, darkly sweet, the wyrm-horn sounds ‘cross Dagon’s mere,
Shadow-gate (portal to the Black Pyramid) yawns wide, beckoning…
Spells scrawled in blood and frosty rime,
Squamous god encoils the onyx shrine, (by the Bleeding Stone) I am enraptured by ophidian eyes.

Pungent odour of engorged flesh, vaults of eon-veiled horror,
Embraced by delirium, witches’ balms anoint me.

Veils of frost entwine me in the haze of baleful moon-cursed dreams,
I hear the High Ones whispering ancient spells in long-dead tongues,
There is the gleam of blackened steel in the flickering torchlight,
And I embrace the balm of sublime forgetfulness…

By the blaze of the burning skulls, beneath the Well of Black Flame,
In the vaults of the dreaming gods, shackled to the slime-smeared Bleeding Stone.
Squamous orbs, black sword, drink deep, blood oath.

Supine shapes dancing in the mist, (serpent-tongued) priestess bares her pale flesh,
Shadows crawl to the sundered stones, the Eternal Fiends exult in rapture.

Tomb-worms bloat on carnal blood, trickling onto wraith-carved stone,
Dark laughter echoes through the vaults, black-winged, cruel as envenomed steel.
In the Well of Black Flame, squamous shapes writhe, a dark tide of shadows follows me,
Ravening fiends unleashed to feed, incantations pour in torrents from my lips…

Wraiths and fiends whirl to my bidding…
Horrors ‘neath the pyramid!

The Chronicler of Antediluvia: And lo, the hoary Tome of Shadows does speak of the darksome day that the Hound of the Z’xulth, the Xur-Ra, dread Zurra himself, was incarcerated within the chasmed deeps of the Well of Black Flame to rage and roil amongst the myriad failed genetic experiments of the Mera and the countless chthonic grotesqueries which seethed malignantly within the abyssal reaches of that thrice-cursed prison. And yet the Vassal of Chaos, spawned from the nefarious biomancy of the gene-mages and their colossal techno-wombs deep beneath the Pre-Cambrian sea, could not long be contained within the Black Pyramid’s primeval vaults, and he did duly escape, vowing vengeance against his creators and beginning his fateful quest for galactic sovereignty and power absolute; a malefic path which ultimately compelled him to liberate his vile Z’xulth brethren from their interdimensional tombs and seek the crystalline shards of the ancient cosmic codex known as the Empyreal Lexicon…

(The final stages of the War of the Lexicon and Zurra’s bid for omnipotency are recounted on the fourth Bal-Sagoth album.)

Witch-Storm

From Volume XIII of the Arcane Histories of the Great Antediluvian Witch-Wars:

Silvern skull, sable shroud, ebon tower, onyx crown.
Witchfire, black citadel, frost-shrouded steel, moon-veiled spell.

The Sky-Queen of the Cursed Dead rides forth,
Black storm-borne steeds, (their flanks anointed by) immortal blood,
Hark to the striking of the winds, the moon burns black as slaughter reigns.
Witch-Storm!

Bright fires agleam through winter’s night, dark spells whispered on the winds,
The trees enrob’d in veils of frost, moonfire entwines the Eye of Khthon.

From the moon-swathed depths of winter-mists,
Enchantress, She-Who-Walks-The-Night-Alone,
Sloe-eyed shape-shifting succubus, silken veils and slime-smeared flesh.
Witch-storm!

Storm-Witch, hearken this night, hone this black blade with sorcery,
Battle-spells anoint my flesh, let blood and steel be my glory.

Elder tongues encarved in sinistrous slime-flecked stone,
The Obsidian Tower broods ‘neath the moon,
Winged fiends descend from storm-raught skies,
Black Ring, key to the Shadow Gate, aglow with eldritch spells.

Forged in witchfire, envenomed steel, ensorcelled blade, blood-ravening,
Ebon demon’s tooth, the Bane of Kings, red rain of slaughter, prow of blood.

WITCH-STORM!

(The sublime adulation of Khthon and his clandestine cults is further recounted on the sixth Bal-Sagoth album.)

The Ravening

Black Legions ravening for blood, Dark Lords hearken to my call,
Warriors rise forth from the earth, battle-spells empower me,
The Throne of Kings, the summoning, marble halls sunk ‘neath the waves,
Storm-wolves aprowl (beneath) the ebon moon, immortal hordes, pledge me thine steel!

The clarion call of battle sounds, iron gleams in baleful flame,
Slaughter shines from misted eyes, storm-forged blade drink deep.
The stench of carnage fires my blood, my bride of steel sings in my hand,
Corpse-mounds piled to touch the sky, black fury enshroud me!

Bleed for the gods of war! Flesh to sate the worms!
By this sword I rule!

Dreadful fall of slaughter, raw scent of fresh-spilled blood,
Crimson rain falls from the sky, ravens ride the storm.

Black cloud of arrows, red storm of swords, dark wave of carnage… slaughterfall!

By blood and steel I rule!

(The tale of epic battle and ruinous war continues in “Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga)”, recounted on the third Bal-Sagoth album, wherein the Chosen One seizes the great sword Red-Tooth and carves a bloody swath to his long prophesied destiny.)

 

 

Into the Silent Chambers of the Sapphirean Throne
(Sagas from the Antediluvian Scrolls)

Black winds whispering ‘cross the fens,
In eldritch coils (jewelled and gleaming) spires entwined,
Enraptured by the moon’s sweet spells,
‘gainst the skies of (bleak and brooding) winter blackly etched.
The Topaz Throne of Kings is crack’d, eon-veiled, enrob’d in black,
Ensorcelled blade glimmers sunset’s fire, saga-spinner, take up thy lyre.

“Thus spake the silent halls of Valusia…”

Curses borne on vampyre tongues, elder-fiends, o’ nameless ones,
Torches glow in silver cressets, in the Temple of the Serpent,
Waves enshroud where marble gleamed, spectral witch-song rides the gale,
Black wings above the land of dreams, and silence haunts the nighted vale.
Winged dragon coiled in thrice, bane of flame in shadowed ice,
Flooded by the bloated moon, the ivory worm now sleeps entombed.
Ten thousand spear-points gleaming bright, sharp-honed steel in pale dawn’s light,
Grim-eyed legions wait brooding, ‘neath the banner of the Serpent-King.
Winged dragon coiled in thrice, bane of flame in shadowed ice,
Flooded by the horned moon, awake o’ worm and quit thy tomb.

“Thus spake the silent halls of Valusia…”

The Atlantean sword beckons me, and I descend from moon-shrouded skies
Into the Tower of the Black Serpent…
Tales are told to me now in dreams, shadowed lyre strings, and sweet whisperings…
The grim and glorious battles of warrior kings, (when the earth ran red with the blood of the slain),
And the shining realm of Valusia…

Carried upon the sweet night winds, piercing the veil of my delirium,
I embrace the rapturous scent of black lotus.

(I hear the lament of the Immortals…)

“Ka nama kaa lajerama, Yagkoolan yok tha xuthalla!”

And lo, I hear the beat of black leathern wings from moonless gulfs,
Dark spirits wander the silent halls of the Sapphirean Throne,
And in dreams I see the oceans rise to devour the gleaming spires,
As the shades of immortals guide me to the Valley of Silent Paths…

Black winds whispering ‘cross the fens,
In eldritch coils (jewelled and gleaming) spires entwined,
Enraptured by the moon’s sweet spells,
‘gainst the skies of (bleak and brooding) winter blackly etched.
The Topaz Throne of Kings is crack’d, eon-veiled enrob’d in black,
Ensorcelled blade glimmers sunset’s fire, saga-spinner, take up thy lyre.

Thus spake the Antediluvean Scrolls.

 

Valley of Silent Paths

The Arbiter: As the twilight fades, so night casts its black mantle upon the world. The road into darkness is long, and its route perilous. Who amongst us has fortitude enough to take the first steps towards enlightenment? Who amongst us dares tread the darkling paths to the Deep Halls, to be rebirthed and remade? You will yet discover what I have always known… you will yet witness that which I have beheld. The claws of the blessed and the damned reach far. Lemuria! Ultima Thule! Atlantis! Praise the sinistrous splendour of the Six Keys! This gloriously malefic journey is only just beginning…

 

 

The Chronicles of Bal-Sagoth

Book II: “Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule”

by Byron A. Roberts

 

 

 

Black Dragons Soar Above the Mountain of Shadows (Prologue)

The Watcher in Stone:
And lo, I stand enthralled and silent atop the ancient shadowed mountain, gazing in awe at the stygian night-cloaked sky, as above me a wondrous flight of ebon dragons soar on vast wings blacker than the darkling heavens! Mayhap I behold the personal war-dragons of none other than the mysterious and legendary Ophidian King himself, majestically riding the night winds to the glorious field of some great and epic battle, surging through the bitumen gulf to face the imperious cavalry of the noble Draconis Abionensis! By the gods, a more fearsomely splendid sight in this world there cannot be!

 

(For the full saga of the Watcher in Stone, see the story “Summoning the Guardians of the Astral Gate”)

 

 

To Dethrone the Witch-Queen of Mytos K’unn (The Legend of the Battle of Blackhelm Vale)

The Chronicles of War: The vast armies of Mytos K’unn, marshalled by a sorceress of great power known as Zyrashana the Witch-Queen, had been cutting a swath through the Eastern Kingdoms since high summer the preceding year. Empowering her troops with great sorceries, Zyrashana had seen all opposition fall before the ravening swords of her forces since their first bloody campaign beyond the pacification of the eastern satrapies; the invasion of the ancient and noble realm of Delania. The aftermath of the final battle had seen the systematic slaughter of the Delanian royal family, and the torture and execution of all those who had been loyal to their banner. During the ensuing months, more kingdoms and satrapies toppled before the might of Zyrashana’s legions, commanded by the fearsome and unswervingly loyal battle-lord Talus Ebonfyre, a man of sublime brutality whom many believed to be possessed by a demon-spirit from the dark realms. Emboldened by their victories and the expansion of their queen’s dark dominion, the hordes of Mytos K’unn commenced the incursion into the lands of the Northern Tribes, beginning with the grim and brooding territories south of the Snow Kingdoms; the rugged homelands of the warlike clans which had been recently united into a strong realm by the powerful warrior-king Caylen-Tor, a man known to his allies and enemies alike as the Wolf of the North.

Thinking the barbaric tribesmen little threat, the Witch-Queen now expects a largely unopposed march through their lands to strike at the wealthy and fertile realms beyond the Mountain Kingdoms to the west, but Caylen-Tor has duly vowed that a searing torrent of blood and steel shall meet all those who deign to enter unwelcome or drive their standard unbidden into his land…
And so, as grim winter slowly yields to spring, the armies of Mytos K’unn press their pitiless march northwards. But news of the Witch-Queen’s advance into Blackhelm Vale (that hoary valley known for centuries as the Gate to the Northlands), soon reaches the highland stronghold of Caylen-Tor. Grimly taking up his sword and spear and donning the woad of war, the Wolf of the North vows that Zyrashana shall pay in blood for every league she has dared venture into his sacred lands. Scouts soon return with the information that the enemy is camped at the base of the valley, preparing to march with the dawn. The court shamans foresee rivers of blood and untold carnage, and great battle-spells are woven as Caylen-Tor leads his vastly outnumbered Northlander warriors to the misty, moon-swathed expanse that is Blackhelm Vale. Legends say that the blood of many kings has been spilled on the dark earth of the valley over the generations, and Caylen-Tor promises to his grim gods that the earth will once again drink deep this night. With his army silent and brooding beneath the moon, he knows that whatever the outcome, this night shall see a legend of war written in blood and the deaths of men. A legend none shall soon forget!

The War Testament of Caylen-Tor (On the Night of the Bloodying of Swords):


O’ grim gods of battle, empower us this night,
Anoint us with the crimson rain, feed our steel with slaughter,
Let every blow be a killing blow, grant us victory, or a warrior’s death.
Come moon-fogs, descend to cloak our numbers, the heady scent of battle beckons,
My ash-hafted spear feels good in my hands, girt ’round with spells (our flesh gloriously) woad anointed,
Ravens awaiting slaughter soar high above, blood-worms bloat on red carnage,
I’ll carve the Moon-Wheel in their flesh, as havoc churns the heather!

A swirling mantle of mist-magic swathes us, powerful spells woven by the Fen-Witches of the Great Mere. Deep night and moon-mist shall be our allies as we surge into the fray! At my bidding, the fog clears for a brief moment and I gaze down upon the valley to behold the army of the Witch-Queen; great tents arrayed upon the heather, powerful steeds tethered, the light from countless burning brands illumining the night, many warriors standing, weapons in hand. Aye, all sword fodder.

Entwined in war-fogs…
Entwined by war-spells…
Blessed in blood as raven-saters, slake the thirst of steel burning bright,
Reap the harvest of spilled entrails, we’ll return with many heads this night.
The death-ravening black fury fills me,
The spatter of hot blood sweet on my lips,
This yard of steel sings a deadly song in my grasp!
Cleaving bodies left and right, a head falls with each swing of my blade,
A storm of shafts screaming form yew-bows, (through their armoured ranks we shall) carve a path with steel, a blood-drenched swath!

And the thirst of the earth shall be slaked with blood at the fields of carnage;
A staggering sea of crimson, a towering mountain of ravaged flesh,
All enraptured by the searing kiss of steel,
All surfeit from supping deep of the grim chalice of battle.

Brooding gods of the north, display to these outlander thralls thine ire,
Envenom our blades with the death-kiss of a thousand serpents,
Unfetter the dread war-wolves within us,
That their claws may rend, and their jaws may be reddened.

The bloodying is at hand!
My spear hammers into the chest of a warrior, and bright blood erupts from his lips as he falls to the heather. I turn aside a vicious sword thrust and my own blade snakes out to cleave the neck of the attacker, shearing through his veins in a shower of dark red. An enemy blade opens my shoulder to the bone, but I sweep my axe out in a deadly arc, its iron head rending armour and biting deep into flesh. Talus Ebonfyre’s abdomen yawns open and he staggers back as his intestines spew forth in a pulsing mass. I sunder his head with another blow as he falls and his skull yields to spill its steaming contents to the earth. As I watch, a writhing, shadowy form rises from the smitten corpse of the Witch-Queen’s warlord and flees howling into the night. I vault to the saddle of a riderless black war-horse and seize the banner of Mytos-K’unn. For every one of us that has fallen, we have taken five of the enemy screaming with us. The battle is ours!

Bright moon, gleam o’er moor and heather, wood and vale, deep fen and lake,
Grim mountains crowned with snows, great rings of stones, black ‘neath the stars,
The storms extol our ancient glory, great mounds feed us, power from the sacred earth.
With faith and steel we walk our shadowed paths, our blood runs as fire, swords blessed by sorcery!

Wolves of the north, raise thine steel to the skies, revel in the pride of your wounds,
Let our victory-song ride the winds of this blood-gorged eve,
For on this night of red swords we have wrought a legend,
Forged in the fires of our rage, and tempered with the spilled blood of the slain.

O’ grim gods of battle, empower us this night and always,
Anoint us with the crimson rain, forever feed our steel with slaughter,
Let every blow be a killing blow, grant us eternal victory, ’til we die a warrior’s death.

The Chronicles of War: And so did Caylen-Tor turn the armies of Mytos K’unn back from the frontiers of his northern kingdom. Those enemy soldiers who fled the field as the mist lifted and their banner fell are hunted down and brought to their knees before the king. Summoning a surviving warrior of Mytos K’unn, Caylen-Tor gives unto him two gifts with which to return to his queen; one is the fallen, sundered banner of Mytos K’unn, the other is the cloven head of Talus Ebonfyre. The king’s words ring out over the blood-drenched moor: “Take this message back to your queen… if ever again she deigns to strike against my people, the slaughter this night will seem as naught compared to the havoc I shall visit upon her then.”

When news of the defeat and the fearsome message of Caylen-Tor reached Mytos K’unn, Zyrashana’s spells of regal dominance waned, and her many courtiers and councillors, liberated from the imposition of subservience, plotted against their queen, ’til soon she was driven from the great royal palace by her own elite guard, her throne seized by an ambitious baron who had won the favour of the nobles and mages of the realm. Evading imprisonment and surviving only by her mastery of spellcraft, Zyrashana fled to the satrapies of the east, and nothing more was seen or heard of her for some considerable time…

 

 

The adventures of Cayen-Tor shall continue soon in forthcoming short stories by Byron A. Roberts.
 

 

 

As the Vortex Illumines the Crystalline Walls of Kor-Avul-Thaa

From the Journals of Sage Daelun:

Kor-Avul-Thaa… finest jewel in the crown of a realm of sublime glory, greatest city in the Middle Kingdoms, mayhap all the world! Its splendid walls of shimmering crystal could be seen from a hundred leagues distant, kissed by the golden rays of the sun, or caressed by the ethereal fingers of a midnight moon. Its magnificent spires and citadels, built by generations of kings from the resplendent gifts hewn from the ancient bosom of the sacred Crystal Mountains, had oft’ times been the bitter envy of rival emperors, and many were the sieges which Kor-Avul-Thaa had withstood and repulsed over the centuries, for powerful sorcerers did weave great spells of protection about the dazzling towers, and none may have passed unbidden through the vast sapphirean gates of mighty Kor-Avul-Thaa…

The Oracle of Kor-Avul-Thaa:
The sky rent asunder… black-winged devils surge forth from the void…
A maelstrom of crimson fire burns above us… what carnage hast thou wrought?
Not sword, ballistae, nor burning brand
Could e’er these walls aspire to breach,
Yet now the city’s fall is nigh,
As elder rites black fiends unleash.

High Lord of the Brotherhood of Dark Elucidation (Keepers of the Forbidden Books of the First Cataclysm):
By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus, such ancient secrets we discovered within these sinistrous, worm-worn pages,
Etched with darksome glyphs and sigils, bound with fearsome spells,
An eldritch tide of stygian sorceries unfettered by the forbidden Tome of Shadows…

Now thunderous cataclysm befalls the gleaming Kor-Avul-Thaa (the mystic gate stands open)!
The Xytaxehedron held to the stars… the incantation uttered with eager tongues…
(What long-shackled powers of the elder dark have our conjurings loosed?)

By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus, the vortex blackens the stars above,
A vast plague of amorphous horrors descends to rend with fang and talon,
(As with torrents of blood the crystalline walls run red!)
And in the glooming chambers of our shadowed sanctum, we wait, half-mad with terror,
To reap the slaughterous harvest which we have sown…

The Chronicler of the Cataclysm:
And beyond the vortex, the churning black waters of the void did disgorge the Dwellers in Eternal Shadow, and upon a horde of winged horrors, brandishing swords of ebon flame, they rode out from the Gate…
And a terrible silence fell upon Kor-Avul-Thaa…

The Echoes of the Oracle:
The sky rent asunder, black winged devils surge forth from the void…
A maelstrom of crimson fire burns above us… what carnage hast thou wrought?

The Chronicler of the Cataclysm:
The Chronicles of Time speak of only two other instances when the sky did split wide and bleed forth such a torrent of horror as that which assailed Kor-Avul-Thaa. One of those times was the fateful eve when the moon burned black over ancient Lemuria, as a legion of ravening fiends emerged from the Outer Darkness to visit catastrophe upon that realm. And the other… the other manifestation of such a staggering cosmic evil is recorded only in the ancient Scrolls of the Third Circle, a dark collection of terrifying blasphemies which was believed to have been burned by the Order of Kl’aa at roughly the same time as the first Tome of Shadows was discovered deep within the Black Pyramid. These scrolls speak disturbingly of visitations to our earth by creatures from a terrible place known as the Black Galaxy; creatures which were able to span the vast expanses of time and space separating our world from theirs in their great dark chariots, bringing pestilence and carnage whenever they set foot upon the earth. The dire and malefic fiends of the Z’xulth! And yet, the scrolls also speak of the Others, known by some ancient, long-dead tribes as the Travelling Ones… beings who did stand against the denizens of the Black Galaxy and wage war with them across the nighted void. It is said that the Travelling Ones sailed the star-seas in huge silvern spheres ringed with a myriad pulsing lights, and that in a great battle they drove their shadowy foes back to the Black Galaxy, but at a great cost. The Travelling Ones were drained of their cosmic powers and cast into a deep slumber, and some say that they remain here still, hidden in mysterious, secret places, awaiting the time of their reawakening. It was ascertained by those mages who found the Tome of Shadows that certain gateways existed linking our world and the Black Galaxy, just as maps carved into the stone walls of ancient tombs displayed the pathway to the terrifying realm through the eternal blackness of the void. And within the sinister pages of the dread book were the arcane keys… the rites to open wide these gates and give the dark wanderers beyond the freedom to roam the earth once again…
And the darkling lords did descend upon Kor-Avul-Thaa to claim their splendid prize, and enthrone themselves within the glittering walls…

The Echoes of the Oracle:
Not sword, ballistae, nor burning brand
Could e’er these walls aspire to breach,
Yet now the city’s fall is nigh,
As elder rites black fiends unleash…

The Brotherhood:
By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus, in Kor-Avul-Thaa, darkness reigns eternal.
Nevermore shall the city glimmer, for now the crystalline walls gleam black,
Ever black…

From the Journals of Sage Daelun:

And so it was that the bedazzling and splendid Kor-Avul-Thaa did become the City of Shadows, a sinister fortress of elder fiends and fearsome beasts, unleashed by the meddlings of mortals aspiring to dark thresholds of forbidden knowledge and arcane power, a nightmare city shunned and feared by all. And not since the sinking of Atlantis was the fall of a realm so sorely lamented…



 

 

Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule



Spears agleam in the dying sun,
The blood is spilled, the battle’s won,
From the icy throne of God-King shall rule,
When nine stars kiss the moon o’er Ultima Thule.

(Old Northlander war-song, found in the ancient scrolls of Volmyr)

The final part of Voryn Helmsmiter’s journey into the Ice Realm:

 

Blood drips from my frost-encased sword, forming a crimson blossom upon the ice…
My limbs cold, becoming as one with the massing snows… my eyes nearly frozen closed.

For how long had we travelled? The memory grows dim, lost in the cruel, searing storm-winds. And now, at last… our quest is at an end.

With the blessings of the elders we began our journey beyond the great veil of shadowed glaciers. They spoke of a prophecy foretold; an ancient and glorious legacy, a quest for the realm of legendry lost to man since before even the Star-Lords descended…
Now, only I survive, my blood spilling to the ice, turning to crimson crystal upon the deeply frozen earth. Elder sorcery crackles and hums all about me, coursing through the sky, the snow… As grim destiny approaches with the freezing boreal gales, and this ancient prophecy unfolds…

Predication of the Elders:
Go, follow the witch-lights in the northern night sky, beyond the great silvern mountains… Let the sacred Moon-Crystal be your guide, beware the sentinels at the Caverns of Eternal Mist…

Spears agleam in the dying sun,
The blood is spilled, the battle’s won,
From the icy throne of God-King shall rule,
When nine stars kiss the moon o’er Ultima Thule.

The Testimony of Voryn Helmsmiter:

Swathed in moon-frosts, in icy winds our blazon flying,
Iron gleaming ‘neath the stars, black skies ablaze with astral fire,
White wolves (like silent spirits) haunt us, ever northwards, the ice-gem leads us, glimmering,
Powerful spells entwine the shrine of legendry, mighty gates of frozen splendour looming,
When the moon and stars shine as one upon the snows, the ancient ice-gate opens, the prophecy is fulfilled!

Towering, ice-encrusted forms lumber forth from the freezing mist,
(Their eyes shimmering with a fiendish, eldritch malevolence…)
Our steel is raised against their weapons of gleaming crystal, and the virgin snow is rendered crimson by bloodshed in a searing storm of slaughter.
(Wounded, dying, my flesh rent by weapons no human ever forged or wielded, I am beckoned forward by a strange, alluring force from beyond the veil of swirling mists…)

Shadows, images form in the glittering rune-carved walls of this glacial chamber; secrets frozen within the timeless vaults of eternity…
The throne of the time-lost ice realm, entwined in the mantle of such searing star-born power! This frozen, aeon-cloaked seat of immortal majesty (of an empire forged long before the vast seas rose in devouring fury)!
What shimmering swords raised in combat once sang with the glorious clamour of steel on steel? What splendid banners, billowing in the icy gales, once heralded the march of these invincible silver-clad legions to the blood-swathed embrace of epic battle? The glory of untold thousands of years past… this ethereal legacy of mighty Ultima Thule. The frozen eyes of immortal kings watch me… such dark splendour!

The Guardian of Ice and Shadow:
The grim Ice-Gods sleep in these frost-bound tombs, illumined by the caress of lunar fire, and the kiss of star-gleam from the stygian void.
All is now as was foretold in prophecy, written in the very ether of empyreal eternity…
The celestial alignment is nigh… the conjunction is at hand!

The Testimony of Voryn Helmsmiter:

And nine stars illumine the northern heavens; a vast cosmic sigil with the silvern moon at its centre. Blazing argent light fills the chamber, engulfing the hewn walls of elder ice, these ancient carvings in a time-veiled tongue (etched into the primeval ice countless aeons ago, now bathed in diaphanous incandescence by this storm of lucent stellar power; their mind-searing meaning at last becomes known to me), their cosmic secrets unfold! The ice-throne is encased by a shimmering wall of writhing cerulean flame, a lambent flame far colder than the frozen surface upon which it dances…

And then, enlightenment comes, gleaming down upon my consciousness as the bright moon gazes down upon this auroral vista. From my mind is lifted an obscuring veil, a veil induced by sorcerous arts, and I realize I have been merely a vassal of another’s twisted will, a pawn in a game which is entwined in treachery and malign aspirations to thresholds of great power. Such a traitorous web has been spun! The elders of my kingdom bow in obeisance to the vile priests of Xothan’kur, and it is their diseased machinations which have urged me here, to the very heart of the far-fabled ice realm… for they seek to usurp the power of the Conjunction, stealing the vast energies of the Ice-Veiled throne and absorbing them into their own leprous, undead bodies, perpetuating the adoration of their abhorrent liege for countless ages, liberating his vile will and enslaving the realms of the world! Aye, for generations they have plotted their actions, and I was the key to this plot, chosen from birth for this fated journey… for the blood of the ancient kings of Ultima Thule runs strong in my veins, and only once every aeon may one such as I stand before the throne during the great cosmic alignment, when the sorceries of the ancient Ice-Gods are at their peak, and rightfully wield this power unleashed! And yet I vow that the vile minions of Xothan’kur shall not prevail! Liberating the fettered power of the Moon-Crystal, I sever the tendrils of their dark conjurings, and their aspirations are at an end, their spells broken by the very power which they sought to usurp! The final vestiges of mortal life flee my body in crimson gouts, and at last I realize what the fates have spun for me, and what is carved in the very ice all about me. My destiny is at hand…

The Herald of Enlightenment:
And so, enrob’d by tendrils of starfire and the raiments of lunar mist, the immortal liege whose sceptred empire is eternity, sits enthroned and brooding over his dark realm once more.

 

The Testimony of Voryn Helmsmiter:
The last of my life’s blood spills to the ice, (as star-wrought destiny is at last fulfilled).  Swathed in freezing flame!
The mystic wolves of the frost-moon (slowly, silently) encircle me,                                     Their eyes are blazing azure, and their fur is whiter than the sublime snows.
Such power! I am the Chosen… the secrets of the earth and the stars are unlocked before me… I am destined to reign forever… to reign from the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule!

 

 

 

 

 

Journey to the Isle of Mists (Over the Moonless Depths of Night-Dark Seas)

The log of the Northern Mariner:


The great serpent-prow of my ship Wave-Render cleaves the nighted waters as we voyage across this dark icy sea, towards the unknown. Above, the bright winter’s moon emerges from a veil of cloud to cast its lucent rays upon us, and a clinging supine sea-mist writhes upon the midnight waves, swirled by the cool whispering wind which catches our great sail, pushing us onwards, ever onwards. And beyond the tang of the darkling sea, the scent of night is as strong and heady as a summer blossom. I know not what awaits us at the elder Isle of Mists… that grim and mystery-haunted place which beckons me to its shadowed embrace, swathed in dark legendry and entwined in the mantle of ancient sorceries. And yet I must hearken to its ethereal call, for mayhap the gods have decreed this to be my final voyage…

 

(To be continued in Arcana Antediluvia: The Argosy on the Eldritch Sea, recounted on the sixth Bal-Sagoth album)

 

 

 

 

The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire (Part: I)

Chapter I: Omens and Auguries at the Court of the Hyperborean King

 

ALTARUS: Gaze deep into the mists with your spirit-eyes, Xerxes… Look far, and tell me what you see.
XERXES: I see a land far to the north… a vast empire of dark endless moors and snow-crowned mountains… a land of brooding citadels and warrior-kings who hail to grim gods.
ALTARUS: Look well, Xerxes, for enlightenment hides within the fog-swathed vales of Hyperborea…

The King’s Dream:

By the onyx sceptre of my forefathers, the air is churning with auguries of dethronement; impending dread thus prophesized!
In a dream I was bade ride the argent-eyed unicorn to the Ring of Stones,
There a torrent of viscid slime assailed me, as pipes and horns sang the clarion of my dissolution, and the usurpation of my ancient azure throne.
Assassins stalk the nighted halls of my palace, poisoned blades and chalices surround me. I thirsted for a balm, but my thirst was slaked by an envenomed draught.
My sword-arm shackled by tendrils of sloth, enthralled by the chasmed gloom…
Borne upon wings of labyrinthine dread… I awaken!
I shall seek the counsel of the sorcerer, keeper of the ancient scrolls of wisdom, and the Crystals of Power.

The Words of the Sorcerer:
My liege, great and regal king… the mists disclose their secrets. You are destined to wield a great dark power. Drink deep of the potions of the apothecary, for upon thee now I bestow a shard of the mystic Crystal of Mera… sacred artefact of the Atlantean mages, won in battle by our legions. My liege, the Crystal of Mera shall unveil the truth lurking hidden in thy most fever-haunted dreams…

The Voice of the Harbinger:
The land awash with spilled blood, and viscera torn forth from the sundered dead…
Gorge the earth with flesh darkened with the claw and fang of war… rent open to the ravenous maws of worms.

 

The King:
The Crystal illumines dark secrets, the truth is known! A dire and ancient threat is ranged against me!
Hearken, the clarion is upon the winds, now the call to arms is upon us all,
Grim warriors, take up thy spears and hone thy gleaming swords.
Archers, string thy bows, brave knights, saddle the steeds of war,
The glory of battle is nigh at last, our banner shall fly this day in victory!

My warriors, a legacy shall this day be wrought by our blades, decreed by the gods,
Blessed by the blood of vanquished foes. Our destiny beckons…

Lord Angsaar, Dark Liege of Chaos:
Come, great king of Hyperborea, march against me with your splendid legions and shimmering swords. I, the Bane of the Atlantean Kings, the Scourge of Lemuria, Arch-foe of the Immortals of Ultima Thule, shall crush you! I shall visit a thousand plagues upon your realm, and wreak untold havoc and bloody carnage until I have your throne… and your soul!

 

Chapter 2: The Immortal’s Legacy

ALTARUS: And thus, flanked by the splendour of azure banners, a vast army marched forth from the great walls of the Imperial City of Hyperborea. And at the forefront of the mighty legions, astride an ebon war-stallion, rode the king, sunlight glinting upon his splendid armour… compelled by dreams, and guided by the Crystal of Mera.
XERXES: Where? Where did the king’s path take him?
ALTARUS: The king was compelled to lead his forces to the shadow-haunted Mountains of the Dead, a grim and brooding place steeped in dark and ancient legendry. Alone he rode into the gaping maw of a huge cave hewn into the side of the tallest mountain countless ages past by unknown hands. For three full days and nights he did not emerge from the cave… until, at last, he rode forth from the eldritch mountain once more, a terrible knowledge shadowed in his icy eyes, and bearing in his gauntleted fist a huge black sword; a magnificent ebon blade which no human blacksmith ever forged. Fearsome sorcerous power crackled within the yard of black steel, dancing upon its searingly honed glyph-scored blade, and its bejewelled dragon-carved hilt did whisper arcane secrets to the king in a strange elder tongue.
XERXES: But master, what powers did this blade possess? What secrets did it hold?
ALTARUS: Many centuries ago, before even were waged the Great Wars between the ancient kingdoms of Atlantis and Hyperborea, Lord Angsaar did rise from his charnel-tomb and do battle with a powerful immortal warrior-shaman over the possession of the elder Crystals of Mera, mystic gems of unparalleled magical potency. Angsaar, his power swelled by forces from the vast Outer Darkness of the Z’xulth, did smite his foe to the brink of destruction. But with his fading sorceries, the immortal mystically transferred his life-essence into his great black sword, and he duly scattered the magic crystals across the galaxy, leaving Angsaar with a hollow victory and forcing him to return once more to his dark Chamber of Slumber. The sword was lost for centuries, as were the crystals, until the one gem to remain on this world was discovered deep beneath the northern seas by an ancient Atlantean wizard. And the sword… legends spoke of how its final resting place would be made known by the sorceries of the last crystal only when the blade’s power would once again be needed to battle the Chaos-liege. This was the immortal’s final, most powerful spell; upon the reawakening of Angsaar, the sorcerous energies and undying life-force encased within the blade would be transferred to its wielder! Aye, the one who discovered the Shadow-Sword would be imbued with the power of the immortal, and by the art of elder spellcraft, he would do battle with his ancient nemesis once more…
XERXES: Then there looms such a cataclysmic battle!
ALTARUS: And so, from his Black Citadel, the Chaos-liege did send forth his Horde of Wraiths to engage the army of the king…

 

Chapter 3: The Arrival Upon The Field Of Blood

The King:
Behold, a legion of undead fiends meets us upon the field of war.
Face me, Scourge of Lemuria, I wield thine bane, the Shadow-Sword (and darksome sorceries now empower me with thunderous might)!
Hearken, the clarion is upon the winds, now the call to arms is upon us all,
The glory of battle is nigh at last, into the fray we ride!

XERXES: The outcome, master… who left the field victorious? Did the king prevail?
ALTARUS: The mists begin to disperse… for now, the images fade. That tale shall have to wait ’til another day…

 

To be continued in:

The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire: Part II (The Dark Liege of Chaos is Unleashed at the Ensorcelled Shrine of A’zura-Kai) – recounted on the third Bal-Sagoth album.

The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire: Part III (Cry Havoc for Glory and the Annihilation of the Titans of Chaos!) – recounted on the fifth Bal-Sagoth album.

 


 

And Lo, When the Imperium Marches Against Gul-Kothoth, Then Dark Sorceries Shall Enshroud the Citadel of the Obsidian Crown  (Episode: VIII)

 

 

From Sage Daelun’s “Chronicles of Antediluvia”, volume XVIII:

 

Episode I: The Fall of the Shadow-King

Episodes II & III: The History of the Great Wars

Episodes IV-VI: The Rise of the Imperium

Episode VII: The Quest for the Trinity of Might, including the short story “Chronicles of the Obsidian Crown: The Battle of the Plains of Kai-Vorg” recounted in the anthology volume “Barbarian Crowns”

Episode VIII: And Lo, When The Imperium Marches Against Gul-Kothoth, Then Dark Sorceries Shall Enshroud The Citadel Of The Obsidian Crown (here recounted on the second Bal-Sagoth album; “Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule)

Episode IX: The Obsidian Crown Unbound (The Legions of the Imperium Storm the Cloud-Capped Palisades of Gul-Kothoth) (recounted on the sixth Bal-Sagoth album; “The Chthonic Chronicles”)

Episode X: The Shadow King Reborn

Episode XI: The Battle of the Nine Armies (the War of the Crown)

Episode XII: The Great Rebellions and the Dissolution of the Imperium

 

Chapter 9: The Voyage of the Sorcerer
The Chronicles of War: The war between the Imperium and the allied Vyrgothian Kingdoms had raged for years. Beginning as minor disputes over border territories, the conflict had swiftly escalated into a full-scale bloody war; a vast series of epic campaigns fervently perpetuated by the Emperor Koord and the Over-King of Vyrgothia, both eager to smite their traditional ancestral foes and to win great glory and the adulation of their people by seizing victory in battle. Recent months had seen the forces of the Imperium display a staggering degree of tactical mastery and battle prowess, contemptuously crushing the Vyrgothian armies in a series of great battles, including the fateful fall of the mighty fortresses Gul-Tryarch, Gul-Azlaan and Gul-Nomedes. The Imperial war-machine thundered pitilessly onward, until at last, following the slaughterous Rout of the Fields of Kai-Vorg, the Empire’s finest fighting force, the famed and far-feared Legion of the Ebon Tiger, stood unopposed not five day’s march from mighty Gul-Kothoth, the greatest and most ancient fortress-city in all the Vyrgothian kingdoms and the last bastion of defiance against the pitiless Imperial Host. The Legion of the Ebon Tiger could not easily count their numerous and resounding victories, and their commander, the legendary warlord Baalthus Vane, made it clear to the Emperor that he was eager to press on deep into the enemy’s lands and seize the prize which awaited him; the siege and capture of ancient Gul-Kothoth! And yet the Emperor Koord did not order the Legion to march, for disturbing information had of late been relayed to him by his spies in the Vyrgothian Royal Court. Dire rumours abounded that the Vyrgothian mages had at last discovered the ancient arcane rites which would unlock the aeons-fettered power of the dread Obsidian Crown, a fearsome mystical artefact countless thousands of years old; a black-jewelled circlet believed once to have been borne upon the immortal brow of the legendary Shadow-King himself! And it was written in legend, that should the ancient spells of might entwining the artefact be reawakened, then incredible near limitless ruinous power would thus be bestowed upon any army carrying the Crown into battle. Had the mages of Vyrgothia truly ascertained the time-lost conjurations required to empower the Obsidian Crown, hidden for centuries deep within the marble vaults of its ebon citadel? Eager to know the truth, the Emperor dispatched his most powerful sorcerer across the great Inland Sea to the Court of the Over-King, under the pretence of offering the terms for the Vyrgothian surrender. He was bade use all his sorcerous skills to discover the truth… a truth soon made clear by the disdainful refusal of the Imperium’s terms, and the grimly fearsome message given the sorcerer by Vyrgothia’s Master Wizard, with which to return to the Emperor: “And lo, when the Imperium marches against Gul-Kothoth, then dark sorceries shall enshroud the Citadel of the Obsidian Crown…”

The Wizards of Vyrgothia:
Darkly bejewelled circlet of night,
Crown of the Elder King,
Unfettered at last the Trinity of Might,
The sceptre, the sword, and the ring.

The Sorcerer:
I stand upon the oaken planks of this great ship (the splendid flagship of the Imperium’s navies), gazing at moon-gleam dancing on the vast, dark sea,
(And in my mind I behold) black crystals gleaming, ensorcelment!
I am enthralled by this nighted spell, for I know that the slumbering sorceries of the Shadow-King’s crown shall soon be reawakened.
And as I return to my emperor (shackled to such woefully grim tidings), my spirit is borne upon the leathern wings of a great sorrow.

Chapter 10: The March of the Imperium

 

The Emperor:
Call forth the Ogre-Mage of the Black Lake and the Swordmaster of Kyrman’ku,
Let them speak the Words Which Unfetter.
Enshrined for countless centuries, within its darksome citadel,
Five score and ten against the Tiger, (curse) the black crown of the Shadow-King!
By all the dark gods, I swear I’ll not be dethroned!
A seething forest of blackened blades,
A churning sea of ebon war-chariots,
A searing storm of flaming shafts,
All this havoc and more shall I unleash against my foe.
Into battle! The Legion shall march… the fall of Gul-Kothoth is nigh!

The Chronicles of War: The Legion of the Ebon Tiger, six thousand elite warriors of the Imperium; the pride of the Emperor’s forces, bolstered by heavy cavalry and a squadron of deadly scythed chariots. Further reinforced by the Imperial Frontier Army of one hundred thousand highly trained spearmen and archers… and never had this force met its match in battle or siege.

Baalthus Vane:
Our banner flies ever glorious, undefeated we stand, steeped in victory.
The Iron Phalanx, six thousand strong, our ever-honed blades, the Tiger’s gleaming claws.

Pride of the Empire, Scourge of the Vraii, masters at Turonium, and Kai-Vorg.
Smiters of the Southern Host, routers of the Horde, Bane of the Over-King, we march to war!
The Chronicles of War: And so, the Emperor himself rode to rendezvous with Baalthus Vane, accompanied by his sorcerous aide. The Legion of the Ebon Tiger reached Gul-Kothoth at dusk on the fifth day of their march from the fields of Kai-Vorg, halting upon the great arid plan which stretched before the city, the huge dust cloud sent up by their massed arrival obscuring the dying embers of the setting sun. As the vast army began to make camp, arraying their splendid tents and banners, and assembling their gargantuan siege-wagons, the Emperor stood gazing at the huge brooding walls and colossal cyclopean gates of the city-fortress before him, vowing that a torrent of red slaughter would befall Gul-Kothoth, regardless of any sorcerous trinkets the Vyrgothians may possess, and that the Over-King would pay dearly for his sublime arrogance. And twelve leagues distant, an army of five score and ten, bearing the Obsidian Crown, approached the city…

(To be continued in Episode IX: “The Obsidian Crown Unbound”, including the chapter “The Wizards Do Battle”, recounted on the sixth Bal-Sagoth album.)

 

The saga also continues in the short story “Chronicles of the Obsidian Crown” by Byron Roberts, published in the anthology volume “Barbarian Crowns”, wherein the events of the Battle of the Plains of Kai-Vorg are recounted and the stage is set for the Imperium’s fateful advance on Gul-Kothoth.

 

 

 

Summoning the Guardians of the Astral Gate

THE ORACLE: It is written in the ancient legends, that high amidst the moon-swathed peaks of the great Mountain of Shadows, hides the aeon-weary threshold of the Astral Gate… the portal from our world, to beyond. It is said that one who holds the key and knows the empyreal incantation may stand within the ancient ring of stones atop the mountain when the stars are correctly aligned, and unlock the mystic gate, summoning its sidereal sentinels, thereby attaining ultimate enlightenment and wisdom unparalleled…

Part 1: THE INVOKING

(The Aspirant Reaches The Summit)

THE ASPIRANT:

Keepers of the cosmic threshold, my ascent has been fraught with terror, death-steeped, storm-hammered. (These grim mountains are strewn with the bones of the ill-fortuned dead.)
O’ Guardians of the Astral Gate, the spheres blaze at last in trine… I hold the Key!
(The trinity of stars shall touch the circle of stones once more…)
The incantation of Xuk’ul is known to me, the Orb of Summoning earned with bloodshed!
(The crystalline key to the Outer Realms and the arcane rite to empower it are at last mine, seized at sword point from the citadel of the Black Templars. Enlightenment awaits!)

 

THE SPIRIT OF THE ORB: Speak the ancient words, recite the conjuration… the Key… the Key!

THE ORACLE: Many years ago, the mystic Orb of Summoning was seized by the mysterious Black Templars, a band of sombre, plunder seeking knights from the kingdoms to the east of the Great Inland Sea. They wrested the sorcerous gem from the ancient shrine of Azaimedes, where it had lain hidden for countless centuries, its true power and purpose known only to the dour shamans who tended to the elder place of worship. It is said that the tapestry of slaughter woven that day was unparalleled in its ferocity, and that the marble walls of the ancient shrine were, and still remain, stained vivid crimson with the spilled blood of the Orb’s keepers.

THE ASPIRANT:

Ka-kur-ra, I summon thee,
Zul’tekh Azor Vol-thoth.
Mighty Xuk’ul arise,
Kur’oc Guul-Kor, come forth!

I hold aloft the pulsing orb, astral spheres, empower the mystic key.
Ring of elder stones entwined in prophecy, the Rite of Invocation enthralls thine power.
Replete from drinking deep of darkness, black shapes dancing ‘twixt the stones,
Lucent beams lancing forth from the gleaming, cepheid stars, a creeping mist ensorcells my tongue…

A great stillness binds the moon-cloaked mountaintop in glooming shackles,
(high above, the myriad stars gleam bright against the night sky, three more resplendently bedazzling than the others, their sidereal auras engulfing the stones) and the central trilithon of the ancient ebon ring begins to pulsate with a darksome energy. A thunderous maelstrom ablaze with writhing celestially spawned power then rends the stygian night (a vast shimmering aperture, a vortex of heliacal fire; the pathway to beyond beckons)!
The Astral Gate is open… The Guardians have awakened!

XUK’UL: Impudent mortal! You dare summon us? If ’tis elucidation you seek, you shall have it!

THE ASPIRANT: Such searingly terrible stellar majesty… my sanity is lashed like a vessel on a storm-wracked sea. What price this invocation? Shall the singing stars claim my very mind?

 

Part 2: THE JOURNEYING

THE ASPIRANT: To countless worlds we travel, riding the endless black seas ‘twixt the stars… the ebon oceans of infinity; flying through a thousand suns, then watching their light fade, as if it were but a flickering candle flame snuffed by the wind. As beings of pure energy we become one with the vastness, transcending the ethereal walls of time, spanning at once this celestial eternity, and yet existing as no more than a mote of dust within the vista of its endlessness. Journeying beyond…

The threshold looms (the star-way between dimensions stretches before me),
The Gate To That Which Lies Beyond yawns wide!
Unspeakable forces gibber and pulsate in the Outer Darkness. Elder horrors of the Z’xulth dwell here; things which were ancient and revelled in sublime galactic malevolence when even Xuk’ul itself was naught but a bloated cosmic maggot, writhing and suckling at the breast of its amorphous mother. They-Who-Lurk-And-Breed-In-Limbo… the squamous sovereigns of the elder void!

Primal terror drags my essence screaming back from the threshold.
The ichor of pestilent tongues clings to me, tendrils probing, the ire of fiends!

The ravening black worms of madness are devouring the shredded remnants of sanity as I return to my slumbering steel-clad body… but as the dream-veil lifts, I feel my limbs transform, flesh becoming cold stone… enshrouded by a dark mantle of obsidian. And the laughter of the Guardians echoes, carried upon the winds of this spectral eve. Such is the price of enlightenment.

 

THE ORACLE: And so, a new brooding sentinel of stone joins the others on the nighted mountain-top, standing silently in the ancient circle of truth. Standing, waiting… beneath the stars.

 

 

In the Raven-Haunted Forests of Darkenhold, Where Shadows Reign and the Hues of Sunlight Never Dance



The Words of the Forest-King on the Eve of the Nexus:

 

I am the immortal King of the Deep Woods, servitor of the Old Gods of the Forest,
I hear the whispered words of the trees, such ancient secrets they sing.
Swaying serpents ring my oak-hewn throne, night and shadow are my hunting dogs,
Ravenous, they howl to be unshackled, that their maws may be glutted (with the blood of my foes).
Raven’s claw… tooth of the wolf!
Ancient trees my brooding sentinels, gnarled branches clawing the nighted heavens,
Spirits who dwell in shadow, unfurl thy darkling wings,
Awaken, o’ elder creatures of this sylvan realm, stalk once more this ebon-cloaked eve.
I hear the whispered words of the trees, such ancient secrets they sing…

I stand now at the anvil,
Adamantine hammer in my hand,
In thunder-song the steel I smite,
A clarion heard throughout this land.

(Yawning wide beneath me…) the jaws of the worm.
(Hearken, the spell is woven…) the call of the worm.
Raven’s claw… tooth of the wolf

Ablaze upon the Altar of Stone, the Sigil of An-rayuth, the summoning!
Folk of the Mist, Dwellers in Shadow, the thrice-blessed wand of the Wood-Gods is beckoning!
At the aeon-swathed Shrine of the Oak I kneel, O’ Oracle of the Great Forest, hear me this night…

The Sylvan Oracle Speaks:

The gods of the earth and sky are watching, the circle is nigh on complete… the nexus is at hand. But hearken, for a new enemy approaches from the east; an enemy who hide their poisoned blades behind words of falsehood sweetened with the ichors of carrion, to bind men’s minds with fetters of deceit! Speak now, o’ Liege of the Deep Woods, Master of Darkenhold, and the enemy shall hear you…

The Forest-King:

Yes… I behold now the face of the encroaching foe. Hear my oath! You, clad in gleaming robes of sparkling saffron, engorged with the mindless adoration of countless thralls who bend the knee in flaccid obeisance… ‘neath thine vestments hides the rank stench of leprous corruption! Bring not thine cursed icons into my ancient realm! Your perfidious words of untruth shall not be heard here! My steel is honed and thirsting for your life-ichors. Aye, and with my dying breath I’ll spit defiance in your face!

Upon my great throne hewn of ancient oak I brood,
My mantle, the leaves stirred by the whispering of the wind.
The elder gods of the Deep Woods gaze grimly down upon me,
My blood courses through the trees and the earth,
And I watch in silence, ebon-eyed and raven-winged,
From every bough of my kingdom…

The Lament of the Trees:

Can you not remember? Have you forgotten the magic?
Sing to us your spells once more, and the ancient forest shall dance to your words…

The Forest-King:
I stand now at the anvil,
Adamantine hammer in my hand,
In thunder-song the steel I smite,
A clarion heard throughout this land.
Song of the Wood Wizard:
Can you not see the coils of the worm all about you?
Can you not hear the writhing of the worm beneath you?
Can you not scent the breath of the worm riding the wind?
Can you not touch the skin of the worm in all that surrounds you?
Can you not taste the ichors of the worm upon your tongue?
Do dreams of the worm not haunt your slumber?

The Forest-King:
I hear the whispered words of the trees,
Such ancient secrets they sing…

Further chronicles of the Darkenhold Forest may be found on the fourth Bal-Sagoth album, in the story “Of Carnage and a Gathering of the Wolves”.
 

 

 

At the Altar of the Dreaming Gods (Epilogue)

Come, dark night… deep night,
Sweep away the fading embers of the cruel sun,
Let me at last dream ‘neath the moon’s sweet light,
For the quest is over, and the long day’s done…

(Translation of glyphs discovered carved into the surface of the mysterious Black Altar Stone.)

 

 

 

The Chronicles of Bal-Sagoth
Book III: “Battle Magic”
by Byron A. Roberts

 

Battle Magic

Sorcerers and shamans, weave your spells of war,
Ensure our mighty sword-arms are the strongest and the quickest.
Entwine us with great battle magic ’til we stand knee-deep in gore,
And by all the gods, we’ll ride to where the fray rages the thickest!

The war-song of the Wolves of Caylen-Tor,
as heard at the Battle of Blackhelm Vale.

(The epic saga of Caylen-Tor’s battle against the legions of Zyrashana is recounted in the story “To Dethrone the Witch-Queen of Mytos K’unn (The Legend of the Battle of Blackhelm Vale)” on the second Bal-Sagoth album “Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule” and in the forthcoming novella “The Chronicles of Caylen-Tor”.)

 

 

Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga)

Legends etched into the ancient stone dolmens on the Dark Moors…

THE ORACLE OF WAR: The crows will pick your bones clean… never sweet the kiss of cold steel.

The Exultation of Battle…

THE WARRIOR:
Blades aflame with witch-fire burning,
Bright swords blessed by nine kings’ blood,
The elf-witch weaves war-spells upon us,
Neath the wolf-moon’s gaze we shall slake our steel!

THE WARRIOR: Battle magic empowers my thews!
THE ORACLE OF WAR: The crows will pick your bones clean…
THE WARRIOR: Red-Tooth thirsts to smite and slaughter!
THE ORACLE OF WAR: Never sweet the kiss of cold steel…

THE SHAMAN’S DECREE:
Born beneath the thrice-cursed cromlech (destined for deeds of greatness),
Three stars aligned to assuage thine (new-born) cries,
Foretold, the hilt of Red-Tooth awaits thine hand (kingdoms shall fall before thee!),
And in the Nine Scrolls thine death prophesied.

THE WARRIOR:
The clarion of battle beckons me… Red-Tooth crackles with searing spectral energy. Aye, emperors and kings shall perish beneath my blade! The head of the Eastern Chieftain adorns my spear. I’ve a throne to usurp! Into the thick of the fray!

THE SHAMAN’S DECREE:
This heart that pounds like a hammer,
This heart that pounds so strong,
This heart that pumps a great warrior’s blood,
This heart will pound for half as long.

THE WARRIOR’S VOW:
By all the gods, I swear the ireful edge of dwarf-forged steel shall meet all who dare stand against me! My destiny awaits! I shall carve my path in carnage, and inscribe my saga upon the scrolls of legendry in the spilled blood of slaughtered kings!

THE ORACLE OF WAR: Carnage! And the crows shall feast upon the eyes of the slain!

The final dolmen of the Dark Moors is mysteriously missing, believed removed thousands of years ago by troll war-bands as a trophy of battle…

(For the first chapter of the Warrior’s Saga, see the story “The Ravening” on the first Bal-Sagoth album “A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria”)

 

 

A Tale From the Deep Woods

In the forests of northern Mercia, June 785 (C.E.):

The ravens are on the wing!

My scramasax is red (stained with the blood of many Mercian warriors),
The ravens are on the wing!
By Offa’s decree I am an outlaw,
Branded wolfshead by my own king!
(The orm-garth awaits me, darkly astir with ophidian malice…)

The ravens are on the wing!

Ash for our spear-hafts,
Yew for our bow-staves,
Oak for our deck planks,
Oak and elder our shields.

Hail, o’ great liege of the ancient woods, ruler of the deepest forest… you, who were reigning o’er your time-veiled kingdom centuries before the arrogant men who proclaim themselves kings of this island ever supped of life’s bitter-sweet draught.

I give you my hail,
I give you my blood,
I give you my life,
O’ sylvan liege.

My life bleeds forth unto the earth (from many deep and dire wounds),
To slake your roots, great old king (as I rest my battle-ravaged body against thee).

The ravens are on the wing!

Ten leagues ride on lathered steed,
Gold in hand to a sword-for-hire,
A blood-eagle carved by Saxon steel,
And two score slain earns royal ire.

Gwynedd lies two days westwards,
Still further south, the weregeld calls.
Mayhap with All-Father Woden’s favour,
My deeds may yet inspire the skalds.

Litha’s moon gleams high o’er the tallest oak,
Ancient king in this sylvan court of elm, ash and yew,
The wood-spirits watch from gnarled bough and bole,
As I pull two Mercian shafts from my bloodied thews.

The ravens are on the wing!

I give you my hail,
I give you my blood,
I give you my life,
O’ sylvan liege.

Beneath the oak, I rest, bone weary,
Thirsting for a horn of ale or jug of mead,
And yet how could a heathen man wish for any more,
Than the healing balms of English trees?

The ravens are on the wing!

 

 

Return to the Praesidium of Ys

The Reverie of Zurra, Hound of the Z’xulth:

I was spawned deep beneath the Pre-Cambrian sea, the scion of a far distant sun…
I have traversed the endless stars, and journeyed to a myriad galaxies…
The dimensional gates of the multiverse are mine to voyage effortlessly beyond,
Cosmic infinity is naught to one such as I… I am as one with celestial eternity…
Clad in gleaming pentlandite armour, on a whim I may reshape entire worlds,
Or extinguish the blazing light of a sun… and I remain forever enchanted by sylphs…

I have seen demons lick your ivory hands,
And watched you ride naked upon the backs of fire-dragons…
Your eyes sparkle clear as hoar-frost,
And yet they are thrice as devoid of warmth.

Wielding this power cosmic, the omniverse is mine to conquer!
Our progeny shall rule the very cosmos itself!

Arcane power lances from my fingertips,
Life withers before my baleful gaze.
The proud citadels of great (antediluvian) empires
Have been razed to the ground by my Zircon Blade.

Your invocations unleashed the Great Worm
Which compelled the devouring seas to Atlantis…
Riding the screaming crest of fettered ions,
I shall bring my crystalline chaos where order reigns!

Return with me… beyond the stars…
Rule with me… a thousand worlds…

The Galactic Nexus has empowered me (I am gloriously, eternally omnipotent!)
And as a god I shall return to the Praesidium of Ys!

The nefarious exploits of the arch-fiend Zurra and his quest for the Empyreal Lexicon are further recounted on the fourth Bal-Sagoth album.

 

 

Crystal Shards

From the Journals of Sage Daelun:

I stand engulfed by the moon-magic of a winter eve’s dream,
Enraptured by bloodlust, and nine fire-gems ablaze,
I am beckoned by sylph-spells and the jewelled sword agleam,
As the great war-fleet of Ys sails the crystalline waves.

(The final voyage of the Navies of Ys prior to the realm’s obliteration at the hands of Zurra, Hound of the Z’xulth.)

 
The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire Part II: (The Dark Liege Of Chaos Is Unleashed At The Ensorcelled Shrine Of A’zura-Kai)

 

(Being the second epic installment of the Hyperborean Empire Trilogy, the first part of which may be found on the previous Bal-Sagoth album “Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule”.)

ALTARUS: You must learn to control your spirit-form, Xerxes… for only by mastering the art of traversing the mists may you effortlessly travel to many places, and many times. Countless secrets will be unlocked for you, and great enlightenment shall be yours.
XERXES: Yes, master… and yet, there is one realm which intrigues me above all others, one era which occupies my thoughts unceasingly. What of the clash between the Royal Army of Hyperborea and the Wraiths of the Chaos-Liege?
ALTARUS: Ah, yes. Command the mists, Xerxes… gaze into their limitless depths… compel them to show you that martial vista which you so fervently seek.
XERXES: Yes… I see the massing forces, the battle is imminent! How splendid the Imperial Army looks as it fronts the foe. Into the fray they ride!

Chapter 4: The Bloodying of the King (The Armies of the Hyperborean Empire steadfastly engage the Horde of Wraiths)

THE KING:
Imperial Cavalry… advance! RIDE THEM DOWN!
In to the fray! Demonstrate unforgettably the art of Hyperborean warcraft!
Spear-men, form into Omega Phalanx.
Archers, notch arrows, prepare to loose.
Warriors, stand ready… Sound the clarion!

Hearken, sons of the glorious Empire,
Here we stand upon the Field of Blood.
Though this day we may die,
Our legend shall live forever.

ALTARUS: And the armies met upon the Field of Blood which stretched lifeless before the aeon-veiled citadel which men called the Shrine of A’zura-Kai, a mysterious and foreboding place steeped in ireful omens and legendary dread. Aye, the carnage of that first clash was phenomenal! The Hyperborean Cavalry tore gloriously into the foremost rank of the shadow-warriors, the enchantment of the Crystal of Mera rendering the squamous pseudo-flesh of the wraiths fully vulnerable to the steel of the royal legions. The king himself rode at the forefront of the onslaught, his ensorcelled ebon blade hewing ten to the left and cleaving ten to the right, his grim eyes gleaming beneath his shimmering horned and plumed helm. The momentum of that first charge threw the dark ones into shrieking disarray, and the vanguard of Chaos fell back before the thundering resolve of the Imperial attack. But the baleful, poisoned blades of the wraiths took their toll upon the Hyperborean horsemen. Raught and ravaged by leprous swords and spears, men and mounts fell screaming to the dusty earth, where they were mercilessly rent and devoured by the slavering jaws of the Chaos-Liege’s minions. Aye, glorious was the courage of the royal warriors, admirable was their mettle… for every Imperial Knight felled by the dark ones, five wraiths met their deaths beneath the slaughterfall of royal steel. And yet it was not enough. Like a slithering tide, the shadows engulfed the cavalry, and the bloodied king ordered the Hyperboreans to ride clear and regroup. Then, with volleys of shafts as their herald, and the Battle-Prayer of Hyperborea upon their lips, the Imperial Guard marched into the ravening embrace of the melee, and never in the grim and sanguineous history of battle was there a clash to rival the slaughterous magnitude of that awesome engagement…

THE ARCH-WRAITH:
Minions of Chaos, rend their flesh, crush their bones, devour their souls!
Chapter 5: Havoc at the Shrine of A’zura-Kai

THE KING:
Onwards with our spear-heads gleaming,
Meet them with cold steel a’cleaving,
Fall only when our hearts cease beating,
Men of Hyperborea.

ALTARUS: At the King’s command, the clarion was sounded to move the battle-hardened veterans of the Seventh Fen-lander Army into a flanking position to unite with the remnants of the Royal Cavalry. Like a purifying storm the allied Imperial forces clove into the wraiths to deal righteous pattern-welded death unto their nighted foe. But at that moment, black terror descended screaming from the twilight sky; howling swarms of winged fiends, hurled forth from the malignant bosom of Lord Angsaar, soared razor-taloned into the fray. Besieged man-to-fiend upon the field, and harried from above by the shrieking horrors of the Chaos-Liege, the Hyperborean Army began to falter, and to fall. And lo, beholding the carnage, the King raised high in his left hand the ancient Crystal of Mera, and in his right gauntlet he brandished the Bane of Angsaar, the dread Shadow-Sword once wielded by the Chaos-Liege’s immortal nemesis… and he spoke aloud the terror-fraught and aeon-swathed words of invocation which he alone had been audience to deep within the shadow-haunted Mountains of the Dead…

THE KING:
By the darkling powers of the Shadow-Sword, I call forth the fury of the storm to rend the massed legions of Chaos!

ALTARUS: And at the sound of his baleful Words of Power, the sky split wide in fury, and searing tendrils of ruinous lightning lanced inexorably forth from the heavens to rake and reave the massed hordes of Chaos…
XERXES: The fearful spells he had learned from the Mountain… did their casting win the battle for the King’s legions?
ALTARUS: The fiends were dealt a staggering blow by the sorcerous incantations, the power of the spells inexplicably magnified by the enchantments of the Crystal. The wraiths were routed soundly by the elder magics, fleeing the field howling their anathemas and maledictions against the King, and the winged horrors fell seared and burning from the enraged sky. But the twisted machinations of insidious Chaos had prepared for the King one final blow in this dread confrontation… aye, the Chaos-Liege had reserved his most heinous perpetration ’til the last…

Chapter 6: The Awakening of Chaos

LORD ANGSAAR:
Fly, my winged sentinel of the night,
Deliver unto me the Ninth Crystal of Power,
That I may at last be free once more…

Come then, mortal! Test that cursed blade of black steel against me if you dare! O’ great king, your pitiful army shall be swept away before my wrath! ‘Ere the dawn, ten thousand shall die!

THE KING:
For the eternal glory of Hyperborea!

ALTARUS: Striking from the swift darkening sky, Angsaar’s Arch-Wraith, which had been watching the battle with gleaming inhuman eyes, leaped to the attack and smote the King, engulfing him in its ebon wings and driving its steel-rending talons into his golden armour. And yet it was not the life of the Royal Scion of Hyperborea which the fiend sought to take on that fateful eve, but rather that which the King held tight in his gauntleted fist… the Crystal of Mera. Wrenching the glimmering antediluvian jewel from its keeper, the Arch-Wraith unfurled its leathern wings and soared into the deepening gloom with a cacophonous cackle of victory, leaving the King to roar his ire after the fleeing wraith.
XERXES: But what did Angsaar want of the Crystal? I know he battled his immortal nemesis over possession of the mystic gems many aeons ago… but what use would just one of the jewels be to him?
ALTARUS: After rising from his Chamber of Slumber, the Chaos-Liege’s power was direly depleted and he was unable to venture beyond the obsidian walls of his Citadel of Shadows, being compelled to control his wraiths and fiends to undertake his diseased schemes on his behalf. When he ascertained that the wizards of the Royal Court of Hyperborea held in their possession the Ninth Jewel of the Galactic Confederation of Mera, the most powerful of all the crystalline keys to the Psionic Epsilon Matrix, he began to formulate an elaborate scheme which would gain him the gem and facilitate his liberation, sundering his fetters and allowing him free reign to spread his vile influence across the land once more. Utilizing to its fullest extent the dark art of sorcerous mind-control, Angsaar succeeded in placing spies and traitors within the King’s Court, and thus set into motion a dark chain of events treacherously crafted to bring the Armies of Hyperborea to battle at one carefully predetermined place… the Shrine of A’zura-Kai… an ancient citadel built over the site where, many thousands of years ago, one of the Galactic Confederation’s galaxy-spanning star-chariots was cast forcibly to earth by the tempestuous skies of a powerful cosmic witch-storm… a place where resultantly, the star-born energies of the Prime Crystal would be magnified tenfold, if wielded in unison with the correct arcane incantations which Angsaar alone knew…
XERXES: Then the battle, the defeat of the wraiths, all that had been merely a ruse… a scheme implemented by the Chaos-Liege merely to realize his ultimate ambition of the sundering of the mystic shackles?
ALTARUS: Aye… the Shrine would act as a portal, a gateway opened by the power of the Crystal, a yawning aperture in the dimensional barrier through which Angsaar could escape the incarceration of his Citadel at last. And as the Arch-Wraith soared the night-winds on its return journey to its malign master, the Prime Crystal clutched in its bloodied claws, the King knew as he watched the Shrine of A’zura-Kai begin to glow with a great and ominous sidereal luminescence, that he had on that battle-fraught eve defeated one dreadful menace on the Field of Blood only to unleash an infinitely more terrifying foe. But the Chaos-Liege had reckoned without the power of the one thing he feared the most… the one thing which had the merest glimmering hope of thwarting his dread scheme and restoring order to glorious Hyperborea…
XERXES: Yes, the only chance… the last hope for victory…
ALTARUS: The Shadow-Sword. Evident once more was the fearsome extra-dimensional intelligence linking the sword and the gem, the same crystalline sentience which had guided the King to the mountainous resting place of the ebon blade, and had shielded the presence of the sorcerous immortal weapon from the dark one until it had been brought into play upon the field of battle; that magical link placed within the Ninth Gem by the Immortal if ever again the power of the Shadow-Sword should be needed to bring to bear against Chaos! And with the Arch-Wraith disappearing into the massing dark, that yard of fearsome black steel spoke once more to the King in the same long dead tongue it had burned upon his mind deep within the Mountains of the Dead, the essence of the Immortal mystically encased within the blade instructing the Scion of Hyperborea to commit himself to one final, cataclysmic deed… a deed which would end the aspirations of the Chaos-Liege forever, or plunge Hyperborea and the kingdoms of the world into an endless abyss of eternal suffering and a ravening maelstrom of limitless carnage and galactic terror…
XERXES: What was that deed? What could stop the Chaos-Liege? I must know the outcome of this confrontation!
ALTARUS: The vista begins to darken… the mists once again weave their spell to withhold their time-lost secrets. Practice your art, Xerxes… hone your skills, and the final outcome of this epic tale shall soon be made known to you…
The first episode of the Hyperborean Empire Trilogy is recounted on the second Bal-Sagoth album “Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule”, while the third and final instalment may be found on the fifth Bal-Sagoth album “Atlantis Ascendant”.

 
When Rides the Scion of the Storms

 

(From the Chronicles of Caleb Blackthorne)
Dover, England: September 1594 (the recollections of a war-weary mariner)

Hearken boy, for I would tell thee a tale before we set sail for the Bay of Biscay on the morrow. I was not always called by this name, you know. To you, I am Caleb Blackthorne, battle-scarred master of an English galleon, survivor of a score of sea-fights, cheater of the notched blades of many an over ambitious Spanish pirate, sea-brother to Drake himself, the feeder of sharks from Gibraltar to Tortuga, the bane of nefarious privateers across all the Seven Seas and the Scourge of Medina Sedonia! But to many others over the countless centuries since my first birth, I have been known by a host of other names, so many that even I begin to forget all but the ones distinguished by the most vivid of deeds. For I hide a wondrous secret, boy… a secret some would call a blessing, but which others would deem a grim curse. Aye, it all began a very long time ago…

Memories of death and life…

For countless thousands of years I have walked the earth…
I have seen endless battle, and untold centuries of slaughter.
I am reborn once more!
The same grim spirit once again given flesh…
O’ to be ravished by the seductress death…

The Scion of the Storms:
Dethroned ‘ere Atlantis fell, haunted by a dark queen’s curse,
My son’s soul shackled by this spell of endless death and grim rebirth.
Fly, o’ skyborne steed of Lyonesse, ride the tempest’s wings,
I am the scion of the vengeful skies, a god to warriors and kings!

Reflections on lifetimes of carnage:

I have been slain by Roman gladius, and by Norman spear dealt a mortal wound,
The threads of my ensorcelled destiny endlessly woven on some (unknown) cosmic loom.
I have lost my life to longbow shafts, fighting for the English crown,
And mayhap I’ll end this mariner’s life a good three score fathoms down!

I marched with vast armies ‘ere gleaming Atlantis sank beneath the waves…
I reddened my blade against Caesar’s legions long ago…
I stood beside Boudicca at Colchester…
I dealt honed steel death from the ranks of Arthur Pendragon…
I slew and looted gloriously at Lindisfarne…
I slaked my scramasax at Maldon…
I crossed blades with Brian Boru at Clontarf…
I slaughtered left and right with Harold at Hastings…
I dispatched Norman swordsmen with Robin of Loxley…
I wielded a Claymore at Stirling Bridge…
I was in the thick of the fray beside Henry at Agincourt…
I spilled blood for the White Rose at Bosworth Field…
I captained a galleon against the great Armada of Philip II…

I have witnessed the rise of corrupt religions, but my heathen blade was red countless centuries before their flaccid laws were ever carved in stone.

They call me the Scourge of Medina Sedonia, the dread Pirate’s Bane! Hunter of Privateers and the Terror of the Seven Storm-wracked Seas! My ship sails at dawn, and may our English steel ring gloriously against the cutlasses of the outlander pirates!

Aye boy, young Malachi… it is a strange tale indeed. I know not why I am destined to live and die in this way, my soul moving from life to life, ever dying and being again reborn, with every memory of my past incarnations intact. A whim of the gods? An ancient sorcerous spell? Some cruel machination of fate, mayhap? Or is it all for some mysterious, greater purpose? Sometimes I feel the gaze of inhuman eyes upon me, and fragments of some past existence which I cannot wholly recall flash before my mind’s eye. And time and time again I know precisely when I am to die in the fray, for always ‘ere the fatal blow is struck, I see him… grim and noble astride his great winged steed, gleaming spear crackling in his grasp, beckoning me onwards to the next life… to ever more slaughter and carnage. Yes, a dour and brooding spirit he is, and in his burning eyes I see a great secret which I must discover, a powerful mystery I alone must solve. Soon, I shall have an audience with the Queen’s astrologer Doctor John Dee, and mayhap his hoary wisdom can help me fathom the truth of this dire maIediction. I cannot speculate as to what strange destiny the fates have written for me in the stars, but the gods have decreed that this is the path I must follow, and I am sure that my adventures are far from over…

The adventures of Captain Caleb Blackthorne indeed continue in a trilogy of short stories by Byron A. Roberts (Into the Dawn of Storms, A Voyage on Benighted Seas, and The Scion at the Gate of Eternity), published in the fantasy anthology paperback series “Swords of Steel”.

 

 

Blood Slakes the Sand at the Circus Maximus

Thoughts of an Iceni gladiator, awaiting the opening of the arena portcullis:

Memories of rebellion (Carnage at Camulodunum):

Iceni Messenger: Hearken! The Ninth Legion has been put to the sword!
The War-Chief of Queen Boudicca: Onwards to Camulodunum… wet your swords! Redden the earth with Roman blood!

I remember the carnage at Camulodunum…
The glorious clash of Celtic sword against Roman gladius,
The pride in the eyes of our war-queen as we hacked down the Imperial Eagle,
And the severed heads of centurions gaping atop our spears.

Bloodshed and Battle: 61 AD (C.E.)

They had gone too far, these invaders from the east, with their imperial eagle which they dared to drive into our sacred soil, pompously claiming our island as their own. They who marched across the world expanding their empire all for the greater glory of their succession of debauched emperors, reclining upon their ivory thrones in the heart of sweltering Rome. Aye, they had gone too far! After their brutal annexation of our sovereign Iceni lands and the vile rape of our Queen Boudicca’s royal daughters, the Romans had the sown the fields of carnage and they would reap a grim harvest of slaughter, without doubt! They had enraged the Red Queen, and by the gods, they would pay!
We certainly taught the arrogant invading dogs a lesson, at any rate. The omens and portents spoke of vast bloodshed and great carnage, and after our slaughterous victories at Camulodunum (the Temple of Claudius burned wonderfully!), Londinium and Verulanium, the cursed Romans finally dared to meet us honourably upon the field of war at Mandeussedum. They sent fifteen thousand legionaries, their armour gleaming like gold in the sun… but it would still yield to our swords and spears, no matter how it sparkled.
The Roman scoundrel, Governor Suetonius Paullinus, battle-scarred from his campaigns against the Druids, was able to choose the ground upon which to make his stand, and so it was that he selected as the battlefield a narrow valley, fronted by a flat plain, with dense woodland at its rear. Aye, Mandeussedum, “the place of the chariots”… I remember it vividly.
The Governor’s army looked unnerved as we took the field, I’ll never forget that, iron Roman fortitude or not! We were one hundred thousand strong, infantry and cavalry, both men and women warriors, as is our British custom, in the ranks together, all anointed with woad, all roaring oaths and vows to our ancient gods, who were surely grimly watching the epic confrontation from their great thrones and vast halls. Our war-chariots thundered up and down the Roman front, the charioteers screaming abuse at the grim legionaries, decurions and centurions, and hurling spears and other missiles which clattered against the Imperial shield wall. And not one Roman javelin or pilum was hurled in response, not one arrow was loosed in retaliation. They were disciplined, I’ll give them that.
We were swelled by our victories, empowered by our noble cause, enraged with the battle frenzy; thirsting to take as many Roman heads as our bright blades could sever!
And yet we were perhaps somewhat overconfident that day…

Abducted from the Iceni:

In the aftermath of our defeat at Mandeussedum, I was captured by Romans with a veiled intent… (though three of them died at my hands in the attempt!)
Nero was growing bored with the gladiators, slaves and lion-fodder at his great Circus, and so had requested Suetonius Paullinus to provide the citizens of Rome with new entertainment. The Emperor had heard much of the wildness and fighting spirit of these barbaric Britons who had brought such woe to his far-famed legions; these painted, pagan tribesmen who had resisted the Empire’s iron fist where the glorious phalanxes of the East had not.
“Agents of the Imperium… hearken to my words”, Nero had demanded. “Bring to Rome some of these tribesmen for the Games. Let us pit them against our most ravenous beasts and our greatest charioteers and gladiatorial champions.”
And so I was taken in fetters aboard a Roman trireme, the blood of slain legionaries still crusted upon my thews. I was taken far from the fens of my beloved homeland, to tread the sun baked sand of the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus… to fight and race for my life in the Imperial Arenas.

Arrival at the Circus Maximus:

The Circus Maximus was certainly a splendid sight, I’ll admit. A vast colosseum with great stone columns and tiers, huge ornate arches and mighty statues of grey marble. A titanic venue for beast hunts, ceremonial pageants, chariot racing and gladiatorial combat. Countless people filled the seats surrounding the sandy floor of the Arena… and in his opulent royal enclosure, flanked by gleaming guards and grovelling lackeys, sat the great Emperor himself…

Emperor Nero: Fight, barbarian outlander! Please us, and mayhap Mars will smile on thee this day!

Iceni warrior: Bah! I do not hail to your Roman gods, and you are not my emperor! By Cernunnos, the blood of my enemies shall stain the sand of this cursed arena red this day!

The Combat Commences:

They unleashed the lions first. Hunger maddened beasts, goaded into a frenzy by the cruel point of many a pilum. And yet my own hunger, the hunger for revenge, was greater, and my honed steel was sharper than bestial fang and claw.
Next, they pressed me into service in the great races. As an Iceni, I was no stranger to the chariot, and the scythed wheels of my quadriga exacted a terrible toll upon their vaunted steeds and charioteers.
And so they ranged their finest warriors against me. Battle after battle ensued, as I faced the Andabatae, the Hoplomachus, the Retiarius and all the other outlandish antagonists which the Romans cared to pit me against. I defeated them all, and my renown grew, as did my hunger for vengeance. During the ninth day of Nero’s games, three iron gates around the arena once again yawned open, and my newest foes strode from the colosseum tunnels amidst a cacophony of cheering from the assembled Roman spectators, urged on and showered with martial adulation from the massed arena crowd, who howled their bloodlust without cessation.
I studied my opponents… there were two trained gladiators, champions I was told, who had never met defeat in the Games… and then there was another like me, a captured warrior forced to fight for his life. This one was a towering reaver from the Northlands with a bright yellow beard, hefting a crude axe with a single iron head. I lifted my iron bladed Celtic short-sword with its bronze hilt, the same sword which, mere weeks before, had been slaked with Roman blood. And its blade would soon be red once more with the blood of my captors, by all the gods! I nodded solemnly to the reaver and an understanding passed between us… we knew we were here simply as sword-fodder, and we knew we would both fight these Roman dogs to the death!
The first gladiator moved towards me; he was a giant of a man, standing nearly seven feet tall and clad in dark leather and bronze armour from head to toe. Ursus the Butcher, they called him. Undefeated, they claimed. His Cassis Crista, a full-face visored helmet, was set with ornate metal fittings and encrusted with jewels of various hues, and a vast black horse hair plume rose from the metal crown. Strapped on to his forearms were two black vambraces, to each of which had been secured three twelve inch serrated blades, and they gleamed brightly in the hot afternoon sunlight. He began to circle me slowly, his eyes hidden beneath his great helmet. To his left, I saw the second gladiator begin to close on the Northman. The yellow-bearded axe-man’s opponent was a huge steel-helmeted Nubian, wielding a wickedly pointed trident and carrying an embossed iron buckler with a great spike jutting from its polished centre.
Far above, upon his great dais, the Emperor gave the signal for the combat to begin, and with the battle-lust engulfing me, with the red mist swirling before my eyes, I vowed to my northern gods that I would once more show these leering Romans the fighting spirit and battle prowess of my people… I would leave the arena littered with the bloody corpses of my opponents! In honour of my Red Queen, I would cast off the imperial fetters and return to the fens! Such was my goal; to escape, and make every Roman fear my name, both here in the heart of the Empire and in every far flung occupied outpost from the Euphrates to Hibernia! Aye, I would compel Nero to rue the day Julius Caesar had first ordered his legions across the grim grey sea to my ancient island! BLOOD FOR BOUDICCA… CARNAGE FOR CERNUNNOS!!

To be continued in “Vae Victis: Escape from the Circus Maximus”.

 

 

Thwarted by the Dark (Blade of the Vampyre Hunter)

 

(From the Adventures of Joachim Blokk)
The contemplations of Joachim Blokk, November 1814:

As my sword drips black now with the unclean blood of another slain fiend, it occurs to me that history will most probably record me a fanatic… as for more years than I care to remember I have dedicated my life to the ceaseless pursuit and destruction of the loathsome undead. Indeed, it was long ago that I commenced with the wreaking of my grim vengeance upon the denizens of the dark, and by the blade of my sorcerous katana, Fiend’s Bane, I vow that they shall all pay for taking my beloved from me! From the Nippon isles to the crumbling ziggurats of the Aztec ruins have I hunted the black hearted devils and their malefic broods, leaving a trail of red carnage in my wake, cleansing the world of their perfidious contagion. Fanatic? Aye, mayhap. But by all the gods of vengeance, I’ll leave a fearsome legacy ‘ere I die… a legacy wrought in retributive bloodshed and screaming terror!

Drowned in the icy lake of tragedy,
Forged in the fires of revenge,
Driven by the winds which compel a man to destiny,
Haunted by the whispers of the dead.

Blood is black in the moonlight,
As it was when I pierced the heart of my betrothed.
Blood is black in the moonlight,
Her undead gaze gleaming ire upon me.
Blood is black in the moonlight,
I held aloft her head to my grim gods.
Blood is black in the moonlight,
(Now I am eternally bonded to my blade)
And ever I am thwarted by the dark!

Gods of wrath, hear my vow… sate me with revenge this night!
Come to me, darksome fiends, taste the edge of ensorcelled steel!
Night has fallen, the hunt begins…
Vengeful carnage ‘neath the moon!

The Vow of Joachim Blokk:

And as I put brand to her pyre, I swore then to my gods that those vile creatures who tore the life and hope from my beloved’s breast and replaced it with that unspeakable sanguineous ravening would repay a hundredfold in slaughter and bloodshed for their misdeed. I would hunt them to their worm-ridden tombs, wherever they crept or slithered upon the earth, and wreak my honed steel revenge ceaselessly unto my own grave. Eternal death to the strigoi, eternal death to the kyuketsuki! Such was my vow!

Aye, this bride of Masayuki steel, ensorcelled by great Sennin wizards at its forging… to me she is as pure as the newly fallen snow, kissed by the breeze at dusk… and yet she has supped deep of the ichors of many men and fiends alike.

Shadow-spawned demons ravening for my blood,
Yet the thirst of my blade is greater!
Aye, all they shall feast upon this night will be cold steel!
I hear the slither of scales on silk,
Fiend’s Bane replete with undead slaughter!

I am the scourge of the devils who dwell in darkness,
(but the darkness writhing in my own soul is so much deeper)
Their flesh burns at the touch of my blade of searing vengeance,
And I cast their malign spirits screaming into limbo!

Darkfall, and the autumn moon glimmers on my steel…
Now it is time to hunt and slay once more,
For the night has come!
The adventures of Joachim Blokk continue in the short story “Darkfall: Return of the Vampyre Hunter” by Byron A. Roberts. This tale may be found in the fantasy anthology publication “Devil’s Armory”.

 

 

And Atlantis Falls…

The astral testimony of Altarus the Traveller:
And lo, I witnessed the vast seas rise forth like a great ravenous beast, a devouring maelstrom of cataclysmic fury; and the gleaming spires and citadels of proud, ancient Atlantis were consumed, to gleam no more… save in the dreams of sorcerers and warriors… aye, and poets and kings.
The Chronicles of Bal-Sagoth continue in the epic Second Trilogy of Bal-Sagoth, as the Hexalogy concludes…

 

 

All lyrics and stories by Byron A. Roberts 

Copyright 1993, 2016. All Rights reserved. 
http://www.bal-sagoth.net
http://www.byron-a-roberts.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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