Illusions of Grandeur

Written by Locke

Grand Plans

*Come along Locke.Lord Yeoman requires that that you attend him.*

So this is how an Imperial commander earns the stripes of a full Fleet Captain.He accepts the detail of ordering about the once and former Grand Vizier as if he were a child to be supervised from minute to minute.An honor graduate of the Overlord's Academy reduced to being a glorified babysitter.And he imagines that this will be the path to command.Cretin.

Our fallen Grand Vizier pays him but little heed bending over the parchment on his table...

*Coming coming..I was just examining this map...*

*And what is that place anyhow?Who authorized you to access the mapping database?*

*Drew it from memory to be perfectly honest so your precious security is intact.And anyhow you wouldn't find this place on any map in any portion of the database available to a mere.. Captain. What you are looking at are the mountains of Kaf and I believe that fortress be known as the halls of Argenk.*

*Those names are unknown to me...what is their meaning?*

*Frankly I'm not last visit occured under circumstances I don't care to repeat which precluded proper research.Of course I lacked a proper guide at that time and so I ended up fumbling about.I won't make that mistake again.*

*You'll be going no-where without permission and I assure you Lord MunchKING will never approve.Never!*

*I'm sure you'll be very persuassive on my behalf...*

*Persuade..the only thing I'll be persuading will be the Fist to have you executed for your insolence!*

*That's neither possible nor permissible..Captain.Now be silent for a moment*

And silent our captain is.Indeed he is not merely silent but entirely still as if he had just gazed upon the Gorgon's head.Only his eyes betray the rage of one plunged into into impotence but that little matters now.

*Don't be unduly alarmed Captain.I have some need of your skills.You were I believe a navigator of some distinction before you aspired to command.Excellent.For I think I could have no better guide to those realms.You are far more talented then you think.I won't go wrong with your assistance I assure you*

And with those unmoving eyes now our Captain sees a sight no servant of the Overlord has ever before witnessed.

The ex-Grand Vizier is armed.

*Ah you are more observant then I gave you credit for.Yes yes that indeed is a blade.And I'll immodestly brag..mine is a weapon of no small fame either.Would you care to examine it?*

*I see you are drawn to the runes...everyone is.Natural I think.You need not waste time puzzling their meaning.I certainly found that a futile effort.But I don't think there's ever been a child of Ash and Elm who commanded the knowledge to decipher them. Well,perhaps Charles might know but even I don't pretend to say if he could still properly be called... human.It's enough that I command the blade.*

*The smith who crafted this ancient blade knew well his business even if he did have a bit of help from those little maggot spawned braggarts.The bulk of the work was his.Crying shame he's so little remembered now.I wonder if our blind thrall labours beneath the mountain after all these endless centuries.So odd...I offered him his freedom by way of payment and no small amount of gratitude and he refused .Refused.Can you believe it?*

*Ah well that's irrelevant I suppose.Back to the business at hand*

*I assure you ,my good man, that this small sacrifice I ask of you is a far far better a thing you do then ever you have done before*

*And trust me..this is only going to sting for a bit *

The halls of Argenk in the mountains of Kaf upon the world of the Djinn

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements -- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

"Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, `Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'

They stand in the courtyard of a fortress that is little remembered now save to the learned and pay scant heed to the terrible battle that takes place in the heavens.

Little remembered indeed for this once most fabled of dojons is older by far then any Son of Man,any child of Ash and Elm.Rest assured no human hands built these halls.Indeed legend has it that the First of the Fallen himself Lucifer the Bright raised and set these stones one upon the next,in a task even Brontes and Arges and Steropes might have quailed at.

The truth to be sure is lost to us.

Chaos-bringer Yeoman must needs shout to make himself heard over the pounding of the Deep whose waves break upon the shores of ancient scarred crags of which even the Nephilim might have said,truthfully-we seemed like grasshoppers to ourselves,and so we seeemed to them

You will note that even our brave Yeoman does not care to turn from the gates whence he stands and gaze upon those darkling waters for a single glimpse of Rahab the twisting serpent and Behemoth and Leviathan at play, those sea dragons of yore is sufficient.A wise man does not unduly trifle with those the Tannin who dare to challenge the majesty of Yahweh Himself and Yeoman is no fool.

Instead he turns to our once and former Vizier (and to their servitor)and shouts once more.

*Where the hell are we and what on Earth are we doing here?I took you here on faith as the Overlord's most loyal servant -no one doubts your undying loyalty-but this is a bit much.Are you sure we are still on Rabiah?That's a desert world.The scans gave no heed of this..this anomaly?Why isn't this...ocean..this Deep of yours showing up?*

*That Yeoman is of no conequence.It is enough that Rabiah is the home of the Djinn and here you will find mysteries enough.Forget the trifling and focus upon issues of greater moment.Specifically the treasure that has lain in these hauls lo these many years*

Yeoman is hoarse with shouting and barely notices that the brazen gates-do such fearsome doors barricade the way to the stenchy filled pits of Tartarus whence dwell the Titans?-have opened before the trio nor that he has followed Locke within.

* spoke vaguely of a Ring...some fabled artifact that might capture the Overlord's fancy?Surely he has all the Great Rings of Power that matter...*

*Did I Yeoman.I would have thought I was a bit more discreet.Oh yes a Ring.Now watch your step and... steel yourself for company has desended upon us...continue on...they're just a fright not speak to them...I'll name them if you like...whatever you do don't stop walking*

*Ah yes the Decani the 36 genii of decay and death come to pay s a visit...trifling whimpering spirits before their elder brothers the 7 djinn who embody moral sicness..those we need not fear for they snared us long ago..*

*Step lively these are surely to be feared beyond all others*

*There is the dog Rabdos and his travelling companion Pterodrakon,he with the triple headed dragon...*

*That headless fellow be Envy...with him I'm all too well aquainted*

*Ah here be our Liliths three...fair Onoskelis,the winged Enepsigos and their sister Obyzuth the serpent tailed...if you can tear your gaze away..get a gander of Akephalos*

*Kunopeigos..oh yes that is the Lord of the Red sea....Lix Terrax the many even I cannot name them all nor recall theit attributes*

*Of these last you must be more cautious...they bear no name no face...steady yourself my boy...*

And it is indeed a high tribute to the Overlord's judgement that this lietenant Yeoman does not falter though the unending corridors be lined with writhing ..entrails he thinks..unattattached organs...every conceivable assemblely of limbs and body parts randonly joined together...these are demons he supposes and wonders what manner of man would willingly seek out such a scene or for what purpose...

The Overlord it would seem chose wisely with Chaos-bringer Yeoman who shows no hint of fear at sight of afrit or shaitan not their brother the marid and strides boldly through shadowed dark-winged clouds he is assured are *jann and jinn* the very least of the djinn who infest this place.

*Ah here we are...faster then I thought possible...look about you Yeoman...a fine sight are they not?*

And so he does our Dark Force user and has no words to describe the sight that there lay before him...a hall domed with portals of bronze secured with iron...and in that hall...upon two beds of cedar lay men who might have been kings or patriarchs of of might and renouwn...and who although they did not move so much as a hair were to Yeoman's senses...very much alive...frozen,statuesque...imprisoned in a fate grim and dread..

*Who..who are these men..what happened to them...*Yeoman speaks...a not un-reasonable query...and so Locke answers.

*Ah these are the pre-Adamite kings of old Yeoman,men who came of a race of giants even before Adam,the Lords of the Djinn,72 in all and when each had spent his allocated time in domnion over the whole of the Earth to here they came to know their doom...unwilling I might add.No greater mages,no greater sorcerers ever lived....I think the Nazghul suffered less greatly in their state of undead..they at least knew death after a time but only One can undo this fate...*

*And there*Yeoman asks as he points to one who rests apart from his fellows...elevated,solitary..somehow he seems animated after a fashion..although that should not be possible.

*Him?He has what we seek after all.Follow me Yeoman...follow me*

*there upon his you see it Yeoman...*

*The ..ring you spoke of,Locke.Yes he bears a ring!*

Indeed this solitary man bears a ring upon his breast and Yeoman examines it with wonder...a golden band set with a jewel he cannot name inscribed with a dread name he might have knon in his youth.He takes it in his hand..nothing?

*These are.. runes of some sort Locke?What do they signify?what is their meaning?*

*Skipped Sunday school I see.These are not runes as you might know themYou ought to know the name.That dear sir,is Yahweh the name of our Lord who gave the jewel Schamir to the prophet Moses in olden times and with that jewel and that ring was wrought many a miracle.Lucifer has borne this ring and after him Adam and before Adam many a famous wise one who was thought all-powerful in his time before he came to this, his resting spot.For this Ring which has power enough to unmake the foundations of the world is not of mundane Earth but of the ' holy and glorious habitation of God'which some style Heaven and I hold the opinion this ring graced His Finger when He laboured upon Creation.For what else might explain the power to be found within this band?*

Yeoman does not speak and for this who can blame him?Instead he is stunned into silence.Locke merely smiles if only to himself and nods to the servitor who silent,mutelike has accompanied them to this place deep within the fastness of Aherman,the realm of the Demon of Discord of which Argenk be a small and insignificant march.

It is indeed after some time before Yeoman can speak and only then-only then does he notice that the servitor,the hapless slave bears in his hand a blade..the sheath cast aside.

*At ease Yeoman..there is no treachery is only that this sword of mine bears a curse,a geas of some fame upon her and I for one don't intend to fall victim to it...*

*What curse..I don't've lost me again*

*No need..This ancient storied blade be bright Tyrfing the Accursed and it is the doom laid upon Tyrfing that no wound caused by this edge can be healed even by Odin himself and that once drawn from the sheath it must kill and that all who wield it must be betrayed*

*Therefore I who took it from Skafloc's grave have never drawn it from it's sheath nor intend to do so nor to kill with it for that would be my own death.I have...reconsidered my recent effort to shuffle off this mortal coil quite so soon and found it wanting.*

*For dear Yeoman I fear that an old foe of mine has nonethess although he lies rotting in the corpse of the Wolf has managed to employ Tyrfing against me in a manner I did not suspect.The bloody Lord of the Gallows the Rider of the Horse of the Terrible One,Yggdrasil the World Ash dwells within this blade.For he who forged it in his cavern Bolverk the Evil Doer bore a Name oft used by my bane and through the power of that Name ,Odin the All-Father escaped his full measure of doom*

*In this evil was surely done.You did not imagine a mere half-breed Vulcan could overwhelm mypower and seize command of my mind,indeed my soul?No that was Odin's doing.A price I paid when I surrendered the gift that is his province,the eldritch power of the Seer to earn the Overlord's favor.I,a seer no more yet remained vulnerable to Odin the Deciever and so he repaid me in blood and deceit and failure.*

*Yet that matters no longer.Odin it was who long ago arranged the making of this blade by his namesake, the blind Jotun, Bolverk to be a doom to heroes and Bolverk who was born countless winters before the making of the world alone had the art to craft this weapon.You may rest assured that he had no fair purpose in doing so.It be his doom after all to spend his unending thralldom forging weapons for the forces of Evil with which to assail Odin and his get.*

*I do not doubt that Tyrfing would be my wyrd if I permitted it...but I was not born utterly a fool after all and so have taken some small precautions.Hence this utterly expendable servitor.Hand him the ring if you would...there now.Stand back if you will*

*A simple minded creature a veritable cretin and one who bears the Cross..he is yet a man of faith strong and devout,a faith that has armed him against Odin's reach carefully.*

*What is he going to do?*

*The Ring my dear friend was once the ring of Solomon ben David whom you might recall built the Temple of our lord in Jersulaem and that task he accomplished with this slight tool.For only the jewel Schamir could cut the stones from which the foundations of the Temple must be hewed,Schamir which had been the strength of Moses.There is nothing that you cannot manage with Solomon's Ring...*

*See...this famous blade that only Thor the Hurler in all the Nine Worlds had strength enough to break,the Jotun's most enduring handiwork..see what happens when the Divine Word made stone of He Whose Name even Odin cannot speak is brought to bear...ah Schamir has not failed me*

Of what transpires next Yeoman cannot speak clearly for the power was a bit much even for him to bear directly...he knows only that a faded shimmering wraith of a very tall grey bearded man fills the hall like smoke.Spear-armed he is,this wraith with a single eye gleaming beneath the brim of his hat,turning towards the North in silent suppication to the Norns who weave the wyrd of even the Aesir.If they hear his plea they yet remain silent...

And as for Tyrfing...he sees only the blackened twisted shards which lay scattered through the hall and of the poor hapless servitor he sees nothing at all though his scream fills his ears still.How fortunate for him that pity is not a virtue the Overlord requires of his minions.

*You see Yeoman.I spoke truly.Odin shall trouble us no more nor his blade either.And now we must hie away to the Overlord...yes yes..what is it?*

*If the Ring of Solomon is so powerful..what else could it do...what is the limit to it's power?*

*He who commands the full measure of the Ring-and that requires a mighty mage indeed Yeoman-is lord of the Djinn and yes of all the Demons who infest not merely this domain but Hell itself.The rebels were fools to seek refugee here with such a treasure to command if they but reached out a hand to seize it.Of course there is a small price to be paid which they would not*

*Price?What manner of price did you pay to earn the right to find this take the Ring unopposed?*

*A very small price Yeoman,a very small price I assure you.The..ah consultant I relied upon in the matter merely asked of me a worthless trifling which I surrendered without hesitation.And yet,I honored the bargain and so received this prize.*

*What meant the sufferings and bloody doom of the unfortunate Captain to me Yeoman?I would have hoped that a man of my blood would have resisted longer,borne up in a sturdier fashion.It's fortunate for my reputation the world knew him only as an orphan scrambling to make his way in the world...*

*Never give any hostages to fortune Yeoman...far better to remain childless and friendless then endure endless disappointment...*

*but enough of trifles..this Ring Yeoman ,which broke Tyrfing so easily...what do you think the rebels might attempt if they knew this simple band of gold was their last best hope against the Orb.

what profit a man to gain the world if he thereby loses his soul?