The Bloodaxe Saga
Of Dreams and Fate
George A. Yesthal
This is a simple tale of simpler times when romance and derring-do and acts of selfless sacrifice were unsullied by complex industrial revolutions and man’s arrogant efforts to bend nature to his own will. It is a tale that takes place in a prehistory that is subject to one’s ability, or the lack thereof, to suspend disbelief and dare to imagine.
In the story heretofore, we met Garr and his friends and family, and shared with them their trials and joys and powerful alliances against a fate that pulls them inexorably toward a conclusion that is unsure even to the sage among them. The tale recounts the ability of even simple folks to achieve greatness in the face of dire adversity. In this tale you will discover that there is no clear and well defined line between good and evil and that it is each individual’s actions in the face of harsh realities that define their character. Like our own history, most our main characters are starkly human, but unlike our history they are faced with powerful magical variables and possibilities beyond our own reality.
In writing this story I was delighted to discover that the plot developed a flow and direction that gelled almost without effort so that I was able to believe in the character’s ability to be real. I felt, as the story unfolded, that I was being told and recounting the tale rather than fabricating a fiction. Some of the more pragmatic among us might view this as delusional. I choose to think of it as illusional.
I urge the reader to take this story at face value, suspend disbelief and believe.
“He’s awake,” screamed Doden bursting into the chamber, ebon robes billowing behind him. The draugs that were stationed there only turned their heads in response to the outrage put forth by their lord and master. Manion Draugs were impervious to fear and could not be moved to cowardice at the wrath of the black mage, but they did know undying loyalty. It was out of such loyalty that Inzveer hissed the question, “Who’sss awake, milord?”
Doden did not immediately answer, choosing instead to traverse the length of the chamber to his throne where he collapsed heavily into a sprawling seated position, talon-like hand gripping his forehead.
Inzveer signaled his fellows to attention with a caustic look and the group of twelve followed him to the dais in rapt interest. Not one of them would pose the question again, knowing that if Doden saw fit to answer, he would do so in his own good time. Finally, in response to the group’s questioning expressions he rumbled, “Hardrada, the bastard mage. Damn his eyes! He’s awakened and is free and I cannot scry his whereabouts. Would that I’d have risked the injury and killed him outright when I had the chance. Well, that’s one mistake I’ll not make a second time.” At this he bolted to a standing position, clenched his fists over his head and roared. The sound could be heard all through Fryktholde and beyond and brought all who heard it to their knees in fear. All but the undead draugs. They were emotionless. Finally Inzveer asked, “What would you have us do, Lord?”
“Find him. And find that Guntarsen whelp as well. My trulls are on another mission and they are bunglers at best. While I need you here, I need them found even more. Do your best and risk anything in this quest, but beware. The mage is not to be taken lightly. He is powerful indeed and may find means to deal with even you, my loyal manions. Thirteen you are and the thirteen of you will go, my loyal and trusted chamber draugs.. It is a number of power and I expect success. Go now with all speed.” At this he dismissed them with a negligible wave of his skeletal hand. The undead contingent filed obediently out of the chamber leaving Doden sullen and brooding. “I will surmount this setback”, he vowed. “When I do, all the Earthlands will tremble at my wrath, so help me.”
Lord Doden hadn’t slept for more than an hour or two per day since time immemorial, but tonight he felt the cloying pull of an unhealthy lethargy dragging him down into a sleep that would last hours that he could ill afford. So much to do and so little time, was his last conscious thought as he drifted off to a hell filled nightmare that would not let him wake until it’s end.
In his sleep the hands of all those he’d tortured or slain through the years tore at his flesh and pulled him down into a miasma of lost and haunted souls, his own being the most pathetic. Down, down he sank into a pit of slime that was comprised of his own emptiness and hatred. He fought to awaken and could not. He cried out in agony that threatened to drive him mad and yet he remained in the clutches of a nightmare that he knew was of his own making. In this dream he could feel the pain he’d inflicted on countless others and soon he was faced with the truth that no matter what he achieved, he was and would always be hopelessly barren of heart and soul. He tried to flee his dream and could only rush headlong into the gaping maw of a worm-trull that beckoned, “Think worms, Doden, think worms.”
Lord Doden awoke with a lurch, bathed in sweat. He’d slept for hours and was pitifully non-rested. His personal hell was that he could not find solace in the thing he most needed now…sleep.
The black mage staggered to his feet and strode to a window to find that it was mid-day. The sun shone over a landscape that was anathema to him for he was a prisoner of his stronghold. For some years now he’d found that the further from Fryktholde he strayed, the weaker he became. Even his plans for the taking of Krawnholde would cost him in energy for he had to conjure and work through a doppelganger. He was forced to rely on his ability to span the miles with his power and also to trust in the abilities of his minions to carry out his will. This thought brought no comfort at all, in fact it brought a distinct feeling of dread. Doden vowed in that moment that he would conquer all the world and then he could travel where he pleased.
The wellspring of negative energy beneath what was now Doden’s citadel of Fryktholde was the source of his power. Over the years he had absorbed enough of that power to ensure a state close to omnipotence. The cost, however, had been dear. The close contact with that power had robbed him of nearly all that made him human and he was consequently sustained only by his close proximity to its source. That is why he could only leave Fryktholde when his sphere of influence spanned all of the earthlands, and he was adamant that this would come to pass.
The mage was also hauntingly aware that even should this come to pass and he stood victorious on that day, his success would be hollow, for his curse was that there would be no one to share in the joy of victory. A tear at the thought rose in the corner of his eye that he promptly wiped away cursing himself for this lapse of strength and determination. “Bah! What has the companionship of others ever brought me but pain. I will have my day and all others be damned.” At this he steeled himself and strode from the chamber to oversee the manipulations of his dire plans. This day he would defy his nightmares by using their horrors as a catalyst. “Hitherto I will be steel in the face of dreams that serve to haunt me”, he vowed.
That day, any vestige of humanity that clung tenaciously to the specter that was Doden was forever banished and a true monster stood in its place.