The city lay in darkness still, though all about the land was waking, for night lingered in the shadow of the mountain; protector and sustainer of the people who dwelt at its feet.
    Once, the mountain had been clothed in trees; tall, straight pines and good strong oak, fine wood for the building of a city, and stone to set it firm. Now, the long green slopes were finest pasture where fed the herds and flocks. The shoulders of the mountain held back the storms, its flanks a living wall against attack. Its wide, strong, roots gripping the river, forcing it to flow quietly; deep, and clear, providing water for the fields, fish for the tables and passage for the trade ships.

    On either side of the city crept slowly by the golden tide, but the jetties and piers rose out of a river blanketed in fog, great white drifts piling up against the sea-wall, whisps and tendrils of vapour drifting along the empty streets.
    As the night began to lighten, the gloom left the fields and with it the illusion of crops growing high and thick; naught but stubble stood in the fields, and birds that flocked and squabbled over their own harvest, now that the city had taken what it wished. The grass on the mountain rippled gently, untouched by biting tooth or crushing hoof.

    Caught by the smothering folds of the rivers ghostly shroud were the muffled cries of sheep and cows kept from their fields, and shadowy figures drifted from pen to pen on green and park and market court carrying feed for the imprisoned beasts.

    Now broke the dawn in truth, and Morning raced upon a freshening wind to catch at the banners hanging low and dark upon the spires of the city; snapping them out like whips until they flashed and crackled like fire: tongues of fire in every hue.
    Then the light, upon its breezy charger, turned and coursed back again to the feet of the mountain, washing over the field before the city to break upon the walls and foam about the knights there drawn up like the ranks of faery; all in glittering mail and helms that flamed with the dawn.
    Their lances rose like a forest, the points tipped with the beaten fires of a new day. Their shields shone like the scales of some great fish, and the morning danced about them, pulling at their capes and the tossing the manes of their horses, until the sight of them, arrayed so boldly before that fair city, took on the seeming of a dream; some memory of childhood that brings to the hearts of men the ache of a nameless longing.

    Then fell once more the night; darkness blotting out the land as the shadow of Tartaros caught the sun from the sky and devoured the day.

    Silence covered the land, deep and dark and waiting. Then a sound like tearing and burning; like thunder breaking all to pieces and a doorway flared in the darkness; the flaming mouth of hell growing wider and lighting the field with a bloody light, the waiting army turned, it seemed, to stone, all dull and lifeless while the shadows crawled around them.
    Into that benighted world came a creature like a dragon crawling across the earth with a thousand heads and ten thousand feet that scratched and clawed the green, green grass still wet with the dew of morning.
    The beast drew itself up before the city; a dark mirror of the memory of that fairy tale army that stood there mere moments before, now gray and crumbling in the face of its foe, and there it stopped writhing and rustling like a forest of iron its eyes red and hungry glaring balefully at the city like a serpent eyeing an egg with hardly a glance at the beak and claws poised to defend it.
    The field stood so, poised for battle caught in an endless moment.

    Then one of the statues moved; raising a hand in which was gripped a banner, the field of which was dark and the sign thereon concealed by its own rippling shadows, but it billowed bravely in the wind that the darkness had not stilled and behind him, with a sound like the ringing of a thousand bells, the swords of his knights rose aloft shining in the darkness as though the sun shone still on those silvery blades, and there stood once more an army of living men, but grim now and fell where the morning had shown them fair.
    The war-chief of that black host raised up his mighty weapon, and even as he does so, a bright light, as though the dawn had come a second time, and from the mountains peak where sat the sun enthroned ere its darkening, up rose a bolt like lightning that rose and plunged to the earth before the black captain, striking with a sound like thunder and the shock of it caused many of his underlings to fall and cry out, though he himself stood firm.
    There stood a man; of no great height or stature, clad simply and bearing no metal, neither weapon nor shield nor mail. With a laugh and a flashing of teeth the demon lord let fall his weapon and the man but raised his hand as though in surrender. With a flashing of sparks the black metal struck his hand and was thrown back, a shimmering light arcing outward from the hand, unhurt like a ripple in the surface of a pool flowing away and up as though the sun glanced at a wall of glass between them.
    The black one spoke
    “You are but one man, however mighty your magicks, and you cannot stand against us forever.”
    “Indeed, I could not. And so I counselled the others of this place; we are few and of no great strength. But I did not summon this magic that protects me; look there, atop the wall, there stand the telling of us that have such arts, though even they must let it fall eventually.”
    “Hah! Then you wish to plead for your lives? You think to defend yourselves with talk? What could you offer me for your lives that I could not take? “
    “I do indeed wish to persuade you against this course of war, but not with talk of surrender: for myself I would give my life into your hands; I and all which lies before you, that you might let live the people who dwell within, and none need perish. But yet I say to you: leave this place or Perish.

    “Haha! Truly you must be great to speak such threats; to stand before the Dragon and to pull at his beard, what courage! You I shall not kill until you have seen your fellows fall weeping into death”

    “I have said that which my own heart would have me do, but I am not alone, and these that array themselves before you would not have it so.”
    “Though they call me leader, and heed my wisdom in many things, they are not sheep to be told “Go there” and “Do this” nor am I their master to say what they will do. But I tell you this; They will not fall easily, for they have naught to lose by defeat, and those at your back have little, each for himself, to gain by victory. Many will fall of yours for each of theirs, and even yourself may be slain. But you do not fear this; your pride is great, and you care nothing for the deaths of those about you.”

    “I have said that my companions are more warlike than I, and now I tell you this: they are not alone.”

    “Truly? Then there shall be the more for us to slay, and the greater spoils to take, for what men might stand against us? The shadow of our Goddess protects us, and the gods of men cower in fear of Her, Tyros himself cannot stop us from taking your lives, nor do those that inhabit Elysiums corpse care for this world of men. what is the knowledge of Galvanos to our steel? The favour of Iridia to the strength of Babilis?”
    The lone man bowed his head and seemed to shrink before the great armoured Demon Lord.
    Slowly he shook his head and sighed.
    A light seemed to settle on his brow, dim at first but growing brighter as he raised his head and began to speak.

    “What are gods but the blowing of the wind? What is their power but the changing of the seasons; their blessing but the passing of winter to spring?
    These things that you call gods are bound to the stones of these fractured worlds, but there is One that fills the darkness behind the stars and the space between moments. And though these worlds do not know him, there are those among their children that have seen his way, though they do not know it, and they are of all kinds; of men, and of the beast folk, and even of your own peoples, and they will not suffer their kindred to be slain by you. I say again: Begone, or Perish!”

    And as he spoke these last words the shimmering of light flared before him and faded, but the weapon of his enemy hung at his side, for in that moment there appeared two great doors of light between the facing armies; one to either side, and from each strode a host of creatures; Bear-Kin, Elk-Kin, Tiger and Wolf. Demons of Hellfire, Shadow and Blood.

    At the heads of each of these armies stood a warrior greater than the rest; the one bright and fair, the other dark and grim: An Angel and An Abomination.
    The Demon Lord watched unbelieving as his army was surrounded on three sides by armies of every race, the portal at their back the only escape.
    He looked down at the man before him, fury blazing in his eyes and he raised high his weapon to cleave that pitiful skull; a skull now bare of flesh, the teeth grinning up at him.

    “I think you had better run”

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