Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chronicles of the Baron of Crows part 5

As he approached the tree it grew in height and detail. Along the black, rotting trunk and branches were etched runes of power in the dark tongue. Even for a worshipper of the Gods the runes were difficult to look upon. The power of the words burrowed its way into his brain like a maggot. He could not pull his eyes away from the yellow glow of the symbols as visions of disease and death burst into his mind. A future where the lands of the Empire were filled with epidemics and plagues. Rotting forests of skulls, plains of bones, mountains of corpses, vast marshlands of the dead stretched out before him. His armor was the color of dried, black blood. Murders of crows darkened the skies and plagues of insects buzzed through the air. Screams echoed across the vast planes and through the rotting forests. Each vista pounded on his brain and was gone just as quickly as it had arrived. The baron's mind swam with the visions of blighted deaths and desiccated landscapes. He saw red castle ruins washed in yellow light with black pennants fluttering in a fetid wind, each with the symbol of a crow on its faded and torn fabric. Plague knights lined the ruined parapets with their armored forms, each a testament to foulness and decay. As he approached the portcullis the knights hailed him as their leader. His coming was heralded by the tolling of giant bronze bells. The deep sonorous notes reverberated through his body and mind. As the bells rung murders of crows took flight from the shattered towers of the castle into the yellow skies. He followed the sound of their caws back through his mind to the dead tree in Nurgle's swamp and found himself staring up into the branches of the black tree. As he listened he found that the raucous calls of the crows began to have meaning.

"Baron, called Bogfiend, Bringer of Plagues, Herald of Disease. You will be our will in the world of men. It is you who will bring ruin to the world and herald our father's arrival in the lands of the living." The words echoed inside Mortimer's mind, overlaid with the rasp of harsh caws and the fluttering of wings.

The demon crows circled the tree except for a single crow larger than the rest. It glared at him from the top branches of the tree. As it whispered its secrets into his mind it sporadically flap its wings, leaving faint traces of yellow runes in the wake of their passing.

"Seek the tree of shades in the heart of the forest and you will find my token there. With it you will rule the Red Keep and bring ruin to the world. It will be by your hand that the world will be remade, if you have the strength, and if not you will be cast aside and another will take your destiny."

At this Mortimer felt fear shift like a worm in his heart. The idea that he would fail and be cast aside while another rose to take the prize that was his. But the fear instantly turned to anger and then hatred. He would rise to dominate the land and no one could stop him. He would crush all before him and defile their rotting corpses. He would take their heads and bring death to yet more enemies. He would raise monuments to his Lord with their rotting flesh and desiccated bones.

As if reading his thoughts the giant crow perching in the high branches took flight and joining with the multitude of circling crow flew at Mortimer like a falling blade. Mortimer threw his hands up in defense, but was too slow. The demon crow tore at his face with its razor sharp talons. Mortimer's screams were drowned in the blood and puss that poured from the wounds. His vision went black as he fell to his knees under the unrelenting onslaught of the demons.

Mortimer screamed into the night as he flailed at the phantasm of his dream. The others woke with a start and brandished weapons hidden under their blankets, ready to defend against attack. Olaf was on his feet, sword in hand, by the time the last of the vision cleared from Mortimer's mind. Johan, whose turn it was at guard duty, merely stared at his lord as he regained his composure.

"What is it my lord?" Johan asked as the others gathered around him.

The leaves of the canopy overhead were beginning to lighten with the coming of dawn. They had made camp in a small clearing that, although it was still under the canopy, let a little of the dawn light through the thick leaves. A light fog clung to the ground where they had slept, spreading out through the trees. Mortimer could just make out the faces of his men in the dim twilight.

"A gift, Johan, sent by our Lord to his faithful. A glimpse of the destiny that is due us." Mortimer said with wide eyes.

"My lord you are wounded," Olaf exclaimed handing Mortimer a piece of cloth.

Mortimer pressed the cloth to his forehead, remembering the attack he had suffered in his vision. He pulled the cloth away and looked at it. The yellow and red foulness on the cloth took the form of three circle. He showed his men with pride.

"The mark of our Lord," he said as they stared. "He has taken me as his champion."

As more light shown through the trees the others could see the lesions on their lord's forehead. A festering wound in the shape of the three circles of Nurgle. They knew then that they had chosen their path wisely.

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