The first we knew of their presence was the sound of their drums
drifting through the trees. The warm spring day suddenly grew cold
and the valley fell still. King Dlarni had ridden through yesterday
with news of the Solars being drawn into another valley; what were
they doing here? The warriors came into sight singing a dirge. They
approached the tree line; a score of dark men, horribly scared and
branded, wearing gleaming armor deeply scored and gouged from hard
use. Their eyes were dead and their shields coated in ash and blood.
A shepherd tried to give them the greeting, but was shot down with
flaming arrows. With a harsh shout they charged, screaming, into the
village. They swept through the homes like the winds of Valind, cold,
deadly, relentless. Those who tried to fight were flung aside with
vicious mace blows; those that fled were allowed to go; those who
stayed were chained.
The drums drove us through the heavy forest. Yelm's light filtering through the early morning mists brought no warmth on this morning but we cared not for we were warmed by the Destroyer's heat. As we neared the edge of their fields we shook out into a fighting line, smeared our shields and maces with the ash and blood that we prepared last night and started to dance the forms of the Elevens. A boy in the nearby field saw us and challenged our presence, he was shot down and we charged the huts. Shargash filled us with his rage and the drums beat in tune with our hearts. The Dlarni fled into the trees in all directions, only a few chose to fight with us and they were quickly delivered to the Devourer. We took several prisoners. They will feed Shargash this night for the barbarian king is near; the Thunderer will rage and the valley will echo with the drums before the morrow is finished.
DRUMS!! DRUMS!! All you can hear are drums. All night they beat
their message of doom into the heavy air. The sound pounds in your
head like a heart beat, but a beat like none in this land. You can't
think, you can't sleep; even the Wind Lords found themselves dancing
to the beat during the cloud dance. Many of the younger warriors
seemed mesmerized by the throbbing. The invaders follow the evil
emperor and use his sky magics. The Wind Lords called on Orlanth and
his brothers to wreath the valley in storm clouds to block Yelm's
magics and to power our own. Strangely, the foreigners didn't try to
counter the clouds, in fact, their drumming grew louder. As dawn
stole into the valley the king and his circle enacted the arming of
Orlanth, the Humakti sang their gruesome songs and we all painted
ourselves in woad, enacted the rites of power and boasted of our
The drums pound, Shargash's immanence filled us with his warmth. We purified the rotting village with the Devourer's flames, the thick smoke carried the offerings to the bloody planet. As we danced, storm clouds began to gather, we were elated, the drums beat faster; the Thunderer was pleased with our offerings. It will be a good day tomorrow. Our Eleventh leads us in the Destroyer's dance. The drums pounding faster and faster driving us on. The Eleventh slashed his chest and sealed the wounds with a brand as an offering to Shargash. The drums beat faster. We danced around the chained slaves in the fire light moving faster and faster as Shargash filled us with his rage. We started to smash each other in our ecstasy, I thanked Shargash when my companion's elbow broke my nose. The drums tempo increased. I thanked the Destroyer when I stomped my friend and felt a bone give. And the drums drove us on. The pulse of the drums, like the beat of a heart, the Destroyer's heart! The Devourer filled me with his being and I threw myself on the hapless slaves. In minutes they have been torn limb-from-limb and devoured to please him. The drums beat on. The Thunderer filled us with his strength. He was happy. The drums had been appeased; but the beat went on.
The invader came at us through the morning mists. Their drums
preceded them so we were not surprised, even though they had not
tried to clear the clouds nor the mists. Orlanth must be with us
today, the sun worshipers will have troubles on this day for heavy
storm clouds boiled over the valley and thunder rolled through the
vale. King Dlarni chose his site well, he formed his shield wall on
the crest of a hillock with a clear field of fire before us to rain
arrows and lightning upon the enemy. 70 of the finest warriors in the
land had answered his call to the fyrd. The Humakti thanes formed in
the centre before the king. Our clan, the Synoti were on the right in
the place of honor. A small creek at the base of the hill would slow
their charge and thick forest behind us would allow an escape if
needed. Sylphs flitted through the air around the Wind Lords as they
prepared to devastate these Solars. And then the lightning struck.
We finished our forms and placed the last skull on the pyramid to honor Shargash as dawn came. The Thunderer's clouds had grown stronger and he raged through the sky. We marched up the valley to meet the barbarians who were formed on top of a hill. The Lords of Ash released their salamanders to devour the trees behind the Orlanthi preventing escape. The Destroyers sent their sylphs to attack the enemy's and all 55 of us charged the hillock with Shargash raining his skyspears and thunderbolts on our foe from his bloody planet. The drums beat with the Devourer's pulse and drove us on.
Chaos! Drums! Fire! The invaders struck us like the very demons
from hell! The trees behind us burst into flame as salamanders danced
in the branches, our sylphs fell under attack from others and great
red sky spears burst through the clouds scattering our wall,
thunderbolts felled our kin and everywhere the beat of those inhuman
drums were driving men mad with fear. We turned the sky black with
our arrows but the monsters kept coming like they were Uroixi and
didn't seem to notice the arrows sprouting in their shields, bodies,
and torsos. The Wind Lords struck back with lighting and thunderbolts
of their own and the surviving sylphs attacked with a vengeance while
the King lead a charge down the hill to meet the invaders with sword
Truly these are worthy foes, with their escape cut off and the
Thunderer raining destruction on their ranks, they fought off our
sylphs and struck back with their own lightning before charging down
the hill to join us in battle. With the Strength of Shargash I threw
the first one aside and smashed the next one with my mace. Shargash
must be appeased. The drums beat faster driving us on. The
barbarians fought well and with a fury that almost matched our own.
Their king's guards did especially well felling many elevens before
their god abandoned them to Shargash's appetite. I smashed another
barbarian and thanked Shargash when he stabbed me with his sword. I
turned my gaze upon a charging orlanthi and sprung on him when he
tried to run, I beat his head with my mace to the pulse of the drums.
And laughed at the others trying to stab me. All too soon there was
nothing else to kill. The Destroyer had taken them all and many of
our own as well. And the drums fell silent. It was time to purify
ourselves and send the slain to the Devourer.
The incessant drumming grew louder and faster as the Wind Lords rained
Orlanth's lightning upon the demons and they burnt us with those red
sky spears. Our sylphs were destroyed by their heros and then our
lines crashed together. The invaders did not waver when we struck them.
3 men before me were smashed by one of these monsters before he went down with 4 spears in his chest; and even then he kept trying to hit us with his bloody mace. 5 enemies screaming "Shargash" smashed through the humakti's shield wall and struck down the King before being cut apart by the thanes. The fyrd disintegrated before this horde and those that could fled. The king's thanes sung their dirges and fought to the death defending their dead lord. Over it all those demon drums beat their defiance of Orlanth and chased us from the field.
Great pyres burned on the hill top cremating the slain and sending their spirits to Shargash. We all purified ourselves after the battle and built a pyramid of skulls to honour those that fought so bravely. The drums are silent, but they will beat again for the Devourer is never sated for long.
The drums will beat on.
I still hear those drums today. Like a heart beat in my head. I find myself walking to the tempo of those drums. They will always be with me. The drums will beat on.