“The difference between angels and demons largely depends upon perspective.” The philosopher Volgard’s final words before his execution for heresy.Circa 1190 2nd Age of the Emperor.
Old King Luthor ruled Roem for nearly a half century and was well into the twilight years of his long life. He should have felt pride and accomplishment at a life well lived. The kingdom he ruled had reached new heights of splendor. Many sumptuous palaces had been built as well as temples hewn of the finest carven marble. But the king didn’t feel pride or accomplishment at his life, he only felt fear.
As a young man, with his whole life ahead of him, he had imagined old age as something impossibly far away; like the stars in the heavens. But as the years slowly and inexorably slipped away, like grains of sand in an hourglass, he woke up one day as an old man. He couldn’t accept the inescapable nature of death and so fear and depression consumed him. He was the richest and most powerful man in the world, yet he would give it all up: his riches, his kingdom, anything if it meant not having to face death.
In his dark depression, Luthor became a recluse and shut himself away from the world. Now, like most nights, he sat locked within his chamber hall. He sat by the dying embers of his fireplace in a plush, winged-back chair. Tall stacks of ancient books surrounded him. The tomes weighed heavily on countless shelves nearly reaching the ceiling.
What if there was a way to extend life itself? What if he could live forever and never die? Certainly, the tales of immortality must have some truth to them after all?
Alone he sat brooding within his dark lair, nestled within his great chair. Luthor gazed with upmost care at the dying embers in his fireplace. What answer was there?
Suddenly the light from the fireplace dimmed and an icy wind clawed its way through the crevices of the stone chamber walls. The window shudders rattled hard against the violence of the raging wind blowing outside.
Then a rapping sound could be heard upon his chamber doors.
“Who goes there?” cried old King Luthor. But there came no answer from the doors. The darkness of his chamber hall now seemed menacingly and the shadows upon the walls grew longer and began to take shapes all their own. “Tis’ my imagination playing tricks on me” he thought. “Tis’ only a visitor, and nothing more.”
Again a rapping sound could be heard coming from his chamber doors.
“Sir”, said old King Luthor as he walked to the chamber door, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; but so faintly you came tapping, tapping upon my chamber door. I scarce was sure I heard you.”
Luthor swung open the chamber doors, but there was darkness in the hall beyond and nothing more.
“Surely is the wind! Nothing more.” Thought old King Luthor. As he closed the wooden doors to his chamber and sat once more in the chair.
For a moment it was quiet, then once more, a rapping sound could be heard coming from beyond his chamber doors. Again the old King Luthor went to the doors and swung them open. Then with a flirt, and a flutter, a great black raven swooped in the open doors and perched itself high upon his bookshelf.
“What do you want?” cried old King Luthor, but the raven replied not. It only taunted him by perching there and it said nothing.
Luthor went to the bookshelf and pulled out a heavy, ancient tome thick with dust. “Leave me alone!” cried the king. He threw the heavy book in vain at the raven and missed completely. The tome landed facedown and half-opened with a loud thud.
The raven said nothing. It only perched there high atop his chamber, but it started at the book.
Luthor went to pickup the the book again, the spine read the Necronomicon in faded gold letters. He turned to book in his hands and inked in red on the page were the words “those who walk the Black Road are given that which they most desire”. The king continued to read from the book and forgot the raven entirely.
The raven crowed and flew away. The old king was alone once more.
The Black Road
Upon those ancient pages inked red with blood, bound in leather made of human skin, was the answer to immorality. Forgotten in an ancient tome that never should have existed.
Old King Luthor read the book. It seemed to be about religious rituals, but one passage explained more about what it called the black road, “There exists a path between the mortal and immortal realms known as the Black Road. This path takes a different form for each person that walks upon it, and it involves confronting your deepest held fears directly. Those who possess the courage to walk the Black Road are rewarded with what they most desire.”
To be rewarded what he most desired. There was the answer, as plain as day. The answer to immortality is what the king most desired, if only he could make sense of where this road was.
The book indicated crude drawings and instructions for performing a ritual to open the Black Road. “Fascinating” thought King Luthor. He gave no thought at all to whether such a gateway should even be opened, he thought only of the possibility of immortality.
He would need to find a suitable location for the ritual. One that possessed potent magic that he could draw upon. The Black Road was powered by souls, both the living and the dead. Living sacrifices would of course need to be made, but also the ghosts of the restless dead provided power to the portal and would help sustain it. But where could he find such a place?
The King was standing with his servants in a darkened, cold room hundreds of meters underground in a catacomb that formed a labyrinth for the dead. The catacombs were built by some forgotten civilization who believed in resurrection at the end of the world. Accordingly they buried their dead in shallow alcoves carved into the rock walls so that they might awaken from their graves. The catacombs had been abandoned for countless centuries and was in a state of disrepair. Luthor had chosen it as the ideal site for the ritual because the site contained main souls that could power the portal.
Strange carven images depicting the gods these forgotten people worshipped could be seen in places. Two with the bodies of men, two with bodies of women, and all with the heads of animals.
The catacomb was silent and cold like the grave. Only the dim light of the torches provided any illumination at all. The light revealed eight dead human bodies, and
A portal, oval-shaped, and adorned with skulls and other human bones stood against the wall on one side of the room. The portal of bone appeared to be bleeding and Luthor felt sick just looking at it. The center of the portal suddenly flared to life and a swirling void of pure blackness appeared. King Luthor stood directly in front of the swirling portal, and could smell the strong stench of blood and the deathly reek of the damned.
The king took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and then stepped forward into the swirling, black void. When he opened his eyes again he found himself standing alone in a field with the full moon directly overhead. Heavy fog covered the land which obscured visibility beyond a few meters. He felt his feet sink deep into the marshy earth underneath him. The king made a face of disgust, then proceeded to lift his rich, fur-lined boots from the muck and trudged forwards.
He saw a shape emerging from that fog ahead and stopped. The shape took on greater definition now, and he now saw that it was only a stone statue. As he continued walking he saw more and more of these stone statues. It was a graveyard, but why was he here? Angels of death, sculptures of saints, and gargoyles of warding all stood guard over the restless dead. The stone statues seemed to watch Luthor with their cold, stony eyes.
Suddenly a vine snagged the king’s foot and he tripped and fell. The vine did not let go through, and instead it wrapped itself even tighter around his leg. Skeletal hands burst out of the marshy ground of the graveyard and grasped at him. Luthor twisted-and-turned until he was finally able to free himself. Then he ran.
But the king had nowhere to run to. It was a graveyard and the undead where emerging from the ground seemingly everywhere around him. He was surrounded, he stopped for a moment in vain to look for a possible escape avenue – but there was no escape. That’s when a skeletal hand grasped at his leg and he fell to the ground again. The king screamed as even more skeletal hands emerged from the marshy ground and grasped at his body. The hands dragged him into the sinking quagmire of mud. The mud surrounded him and the king took one last gasping breath before his head was dragged under.
The Ending Times
King Luthor saw only blackness now. He was alive he knew that much, but he felt totally different. He went to feel for his face and felt his limbs were grotesquely out of proportion. His eyes were gone, he saw nothing but blackness. He let out a scream of horror, but instead of his voice he heard a growling and monstrous noise. What…what was he now? He felt so very hungry too, if only there was something to eat.
The Lord of One-Hundred mouths said nothing in return except for animal-like grunts. It shuffled forwards to the bodies of the human sacrifices leftover from the ritual. “No use letting such good meat go to waste” the demon that once was King Luthor thought as it began to consume the corpses one-by-one.
On the surface far above the catacombs of Westmarch there was a great tearing sound as the sky itself was torn open by the violent birth of a new god of Chaos known today as the Wanderer. The city was bathed in a purple light as the sky turned into a swirling maelstrom of violet color. Lightning and fire reigned down upon the city of Westmarch. Buildings caught fire and burned.
The ending times had come.