The Selection of a Red King
- Martin Laurie
After the death of Vungharesh,the Alkothi sought a new Red King to lead them from the walls to afflict their foes. Only the Green King commanded them now and his place was within the walls, not without. No sally or raid could be launched without the Red King yet no Red King could be made without the approbation of Shargash. Usually when the Red King aged or died there would be great battle among the Destroyers and the survivor would be the new Red King. Khorvash, the Green King felt a change in the drum-beat of his gods desire and sought the wisdom of Eridus, the Dead King, Lord of the Dark Paths. Eridus spoke with the deep knowledge of Shargash and suggested a Testing of the Names for all the Destroyers that would show, by the light of the Red Planet, who was fit to rule in the name of the Breaker of Foes. Such an unusual and heroic testing would bring the blessings of the God and doom to the foes of Alkoth.
The Testing of Names began with:
The Feat of Thunder.
All the assembled Destroyers stood on the wall with Khorvash and Eridus watching and as one, summoned their powers.
Across the darkening sky the clouds glowed with a scarlet hue, the carrion birds wheeled and dove as if sensing the might put forth on the Green Wall where so many meals were born. A reverberating cry to Shargash cracked like Thunder across the city of war. It echoed and shuddered the sky, moved the earth and woke the dead. All heard the spirit of Vungharesh cry "Vengeance!" In that reverberation
Answered by their God, the Destroyers began their feat of Thunder.
Again and again they struck the besiegers with the Sky Bolts of Shargash. From the Red Planet they came like jagged blue javelins of vengeance. Hard they struck. Over and over till their camp and entrenchments were shattered and their Magi cried tears of blood at the energies in the air. One by one the Destroyers poured out their soul-strength till nothing remained. One by one they fell into Death as Shargash received their souls. When the Black King called a halt to the testing, only five remained. They were Vordanthus, Uribus, Barahum, Urshanabi and Sursunabu. Each man tottered where they stood with weariness yet their pride and strength were plain for all to see. The waiting folk of Alkoth roared their approval at the endurance of their champions.
Celebrating their victory, the five survivors ate well upon the corpses of the dead Destroyers. The meat from such puissant flesh was filled with energies and strong in the immanence of Shargash. The families of the fallen wept with joy as the souls of the fallen swirled among them and urged the victors to dine well up on their flesh in honor of their families.
The Hunger of Devouring
Once filled with the food of victory, Eridus ordered the contestants to show their love of the Devourer.
Sursunabu ate the hearts of a score of prisoners captured in a sally but gained little for his efforts. Shargash was not pleased with the offering and Eridus ordered Sursunabu into the Elevens as penance for his failure.
Urshanabi went from the wall one night by the Oslir and feasted upon the brains of a SurEnslib priestess and half of her folk. He was greeted well by Shargash and Biselenslib for this Feat and Eridus sent him on to
the next testing.
Barahum sought a hardier foe and challenged a Knight to an eating contest in front of the whole Carmanian army. This Knight they sent forward was huge of girth, had sharp teeth, a strange manner and was full of great strength. Barahum thought it a worthy test.
The Knight, called Sir Hrengolt of Spol, demanded the right of food choice for he was the one being challenged. Barahum laughed and agreed for the will of Shargash was in him and no test could be ignored.
Sir Hrengolt called for the flesh of men as the meal of their contest much to the amazement of the Carmanian host. With a smile of shark-hunger he began eating with relish. His appetite was huge and he
laughed as he shoveled the ribbons of meat into his mouth and ripped them with his serrated teeth.
Barahum saw that he was not human but a thing of trickery and cunning yet laughed harder than his foe and was undismayed by the power of his gluttony.
Sir Hrengolt ate and ate but Barahum ate with him without gag or pause. Perplexed at this strange perseverance, the Knight asked his foe between mouthfuls. 'Do you see now that I am no mere man of cattle mind or spirit like you Alkothi? I am hunger and want and the foe of all humans! I cherish the despair of your defeat for no mortal can out-eat the hunger of hate!"
Barahum was undaunted and replied. "I care not for your hate. Shargash is with me and I am man no more. I am the maw of my god and you are the slave to His will." and with that he ate faster and faster. And for every mouthful he ate, his foe ate one too for he couldn't stop, propelled as he was by the will of Barahum and the endless hunger of the Devourer.
Finally, when his body swelled and twisted like a squirming maggot Sir Hrengolt screamed. "I can eat no more! Please!"
Barahum replied as he relished more mouthfuls. "Life is to eat. If you don't eat, you DIE."
With that Sir Hrengolt exploded like a bloated melon, spraying his flesh and that of his repast everywhere like a fountain of offal. Barahum laughed once more and turned to the Carmanian host who still shuddered in dismay at their defeat. "See your Champion! See his death caused by one tooth of the Devourer!" He waved towards the towering wall of Green Stone. "I am a tooth, there is his mouth! Enter when you will for we have much eating to do!"
Baruhum returned to approbation and the blessing of Shargash.
Uribus saw that the Devourer hungered for more than flesh and sought the sustenance of spirit to feed the need. He saw also that the greatest offering to the Devourer one could make was that of the self. Uribus stripped away his armour and his weapons and built a pyre of bones from the corpses of the Enclosure with his own hands. It took three days and nights for him to build and stood as high as a house. After long preparation and prayer, he stood among it. Using the might of his magics he called upon a Sky bolt from the Red planet to light the bone fire beneath him. The bone fire didn't burn his flesh, instead like the sufferings of the Lord of Ash, its burnt his soul. It seared him with the devouring flame of purity. It cast a conflagration of suffering on him that scorched his weaknesses and torments away. While he burnt upon the Bone Pyre for three days and nights his spirit traveled the underworld and saw the domains of Shargash. He fought alongside Kazkurtum in the lands of the dead, visited Bijiif in his Justice and saw the true meaning of rebirth and destruction on the Dark Paths. When the bone fire died down he strode from the flames with skin as white as ash and not a hair upon his body. Uribus never regained his normal colouring and never grew any hair from that day forth. All who knew him said that a great change had come upon him, one of wisdom and enduring strength. Eridus blessed his journey calling it great and wonderful that one of the Red Path would take it so young.
Vordanthus was always mighty in the powers of the devourer and sought a meal worthy of him and his God of All. During a sally from the Impaling Gate, the Khorguz tribe of Pentan nomads rode to intercept the assault. Arrows flew like hail and the Alkothi struggled to hold their line against repeated charges. Many heroic struggles occurred that day but none were so surprising than that of Vordanthus and Orduk. When the Khan of the Khorguz, Orduk the Bloody charged with his warband into battle the Bloody Maces fell back in disorder .Orduk was mighty in war and rode upon Fleet-Thunder, his fastest, most warlike horse. His lance was bloody from its tip to his hands as he rammed it through Alkothi after Alkothi on his trail of destruction. So far did his onset carry him beyond his warband that he was soon alone amid the carnage and chaos of the entrenchments that the Alkothi had captured earlier in their sally. Yet Orduk knew no fear and rode on to hunt more lance-fodder. Then he came upon Vordanthus. The mighty warrior stood to await the Khans charge. Orduk leveled his lance with deadly intent but Vordanthus was ready and grabbed it with one hand and snapped it like a twig for his strength was like the glacier, slow but unstoppable when applied. Before the surprised Khan could draw his sword, Vordanthus ducked beneath his horse and placed his shoulder to its middle and lifted. Even though his muscles creaked and cracked from the strain, Vordanthus lifted the Khan, horse and all into the air and set of at a run to the Impaling Gate. Orduk did all he could to keep in the saddle and draw his sword. Once in Alkoth he felt the terror of the underworld but his spirit had been on the far journeys with the shamans in the ceremonies on many occasions and he was unafraid. He spat his defiance upon the face of Vordanthus and swore "nothing you Demons can do will break me or humble my pride!" Vordanthus said nothing. He ordered the horse of the Khan brought before him and reached out to the animal to grab its leg. With one immense wrench he tore its leg off and began to eat the steaming raw flesh till his face was smeared with sticky crimson and his hair was matted like a red rug. The Khan said nothing though his eyes said much as Vordanthus ate his beautiful horse piece by piece over the course of several hours.
When he had picked the last bone clean, Vordanthus belched his happiness and looked into the eyes of the Khan. He saw the pain but no breaking of the Khans pride. He laughed. "You are mighty in spirit oh Khan of the Khorguz and for that I salute you. But know this; I am of the Devourer and even mighty Yelm has fallen before His desire. Your defiance is without meaning in the face of that hunger."
And with that Vordanthus began to eat the Khan alive from the feet up till there was nothing left but bones and he cracked them open and sucked the dry.
Thus did Vordanthus show his knowledge of the Devourer.