Extract from Aftermath of Armageddon – available here for $4.99
A short while later, they gathered in the Temple of Muses. It seemed to be the appropriate place to carry out the communication. People travelled here from all over FirstWorld to receive guidance and inspiration. Often, they reported hearing communications from beyond their comprehension and were moved to write, sculpt, or compose work that had previously seemed impossible. Manfred solemnly handed his staff to Taran. “Guard it well, my friend and do not hand it back to me unless you are certain that I am fully compos mentis.” They had prepared a comfortable seat for him, in front of a small table. He sat, closed his eyes, and took the Palantir in both hands. He focussed his mind and muttered a few words of magic to guard his thoughts. He opened his eyes and looked into the centre of the Palantir. At first, he saw nothing. Gradually the ball seemed to suck him in. Clouds floated in front of his eyes, swirling grey and brown, as if he looked into limbo. He focussed his mind and thought a single word. Gadiel.
The response was instantaneous. The ball went black, so that he appeared to be looking into endless night. He heard a voice in his head and felt a presence try to invade his mind. He focussed hard and his defences held. So, you know me, Manfred the Magician, and you are prepared for me. Perhaps I underestimated you. The fool Weylyn certainly did. But I sense that you don’t know me really. You have heard the name, Gadiel. You have heard me called the Dark God. You remember my victory over Gilgamesh. You were responsible for my pain weren’t you? You caused the Sword to be forged. I will not forget that, Manfred. You will feel the pain that I felt that day. However, I recovered and now I’m stronger than ever with not just a universe but also a multiverse to conquer. You are such a fool, Manfred; like all of the wizards my brothers made. Every one was flawed. I sense your bewilderment. Poor Manfred, he doesn’t understand. You think that I’m a god, a creation of the humans. You think that I’m the spawn of some great evil hidden in the depths of the mountains and unwittingly released by the dwarves. You think that you can defeat me, using your reborn hero and his sword. You poor misguided fool, Manfred. Know me for who I am. For I am indeed one of those you call the Great Old Ones, though they imprisoned me here on this backwater planet because I did not agree with their views and plans. They should have killed me, but it was against their beliefs. Had I been in their position, I would not have hesitated for an instant. The conquest of the multiverse is but a stepping-stone on my pathway to revenge. They buried me deep in my mountain prison and secured me with all of the science they could muster. But I was able to break free eventually, with the help of the dwarves. Know me, Manfred, for I am Satan. Hah, I feel your fear and I feed on it. Yet you still think that I can be defeated. How can it be? My brothers created everything here, so it stands to reason you are all weaker than I am. Oh, I see, you think your hero will save you again. Last time was an aberration. However, it will never come to that again. I have already dealt with Simon Redhead. I will show you. Look into the Palantir. It has the ability to show you things that have been, things that are, or things that are yet to be. I will show you one of each. Enjoy them, Manfred the Fool, and admit your defeat. Open the doors of Melasurej to me and I will make your death a merciful one. Resist me, and you will know pain without end, for I have the power to make you live for eternity. Manfred convulsed and pulled his hands free of the stone. He felt weak and light-headed. His companions had concern etched on their faces.
“What did you see?” Rheanna asked.
“You have much to research,” Manfred replied, “but there are things I must still see.” He placed his hands on the Palantir again and focussed his mind and his eyes. This time he seemed to be sucked into the ball and float above the scenes that he witnessed. He saw and heard everything but could not interact.
Simon lay on the cold cobbles of a cellar floor. His arms and legs were shackled to the wall. He seemed barely conscious as he struggled to lick a few drops of moisture off the clammy cellar wall. He moved as if he were in great pain. He was naked, filthy, and bleeding from a great many places. As he struggled to move, he cried out in his torment. The door opened and an ugly gaoler lumbered in. “I told you, no noise, scum.” His booted foot thudded into Simon’s chest and Manfred heard a crunching sound like ribs being shattered. The second kick crushed Simon’s exposed testicles, with a soft thud. The third caught him on the side of the head and seemed to render him unconscious. The thug gave him one more kick in the teeth and left him lying in his own excrement and blood. Before he left the room, the bully turned back towards his prisoner. “I’ve hardly started with you yet. Tomorrow you will learn what real pain is, red boy.” Manfred watched for a long time. There was no movement. At least, Simon would be spared tomorrow’s pain. Manfred felt as though his heart were breaking with anguish. “Noooooo!” he screamed. Instinctively, he knew. Simon was dead.
The scene changed. Manfred gratefully exchanged the foetid air of the cellar for the cleansing smell of a sea breeze. He stood on a bridge over a great river. He recognised it immediately; he was in Ur on the bridge over the River Eden. He was facing south, seeing the river break into the many strands of the Eden Delta before it flowed into the Gulf of Eden. The peace was quickly shattered. A fleet of ships, unlike anything he had seen before was sailing unnaturally quickly upstream, against the current. Each ship was built in the likeness of a great beast, with the prow carved into the beast’s head. As they passed under the bridge, he saw a serpent, a scorpion, a reptilian representation that resembled an alligator, and a feline shape with the head of a lion. The boats contained heavily armed warriors, all dressed in colourful armour in the form of their chosen creature. He turned around to watch the ships tie up at the wharves and the warriors leap ashore. What little resistance they met was quickly dispatched. Manfred’s heart fell as he watched the city of Ur begin to burn.
The smell of smoke grew stronger as the scene changed again. He stood in a burnt, destroyed landscape. Everywhere was black with ash. A few smouldering stumps were all that was left of trees. A polluted river flowed through the destruction. He didn’t know where he was. Something moved and caught his eye. A man emerged from the river. He was a thin, small man with strange orange hair and deformed hands and feet. He turned towards him and Manfred saw his anguished eyes; one grey and one green. The man spoke to him. “Please, kill me. Look what they have done to my Eden. The One Tree is destroyed. The elves are all dead. Why do I still live? Please end it, now!”
Manfred blinked and he was back in the Temple of Muses at Rhakotis. He leaned back, emotionally fatigued, and released the stone. His companions watched with concern but said nothing until he was ready to speak. “What did you observe while I was connected to the stone?” he asked them.
Taran responded. “You sat still as a rock and stared into the centre of the stone. You went deathly pale and on occasion cried out in anguish.”
“I have been given a glimpse of the past, the present, and the future – at least as Gadiel sees them or wants us to see them. I have learned something incredible about Gadiel. I fear sharing the information with you, lest all hope be lost, which is what Gadiel wants. Yet, I must honour and respect you and I cannot carry this burden alone.” He told them everything, sparing none of the horrific details. Many tears flowed and it was some time before they could speak again. Then they resolved to continue the fight, to make sure that Gadiel’s visions would not come to pass.