Every world has its tales and fables. Worlds of swords and sorcery have even more, for the breath of Gods hang in the very air of such places, and their tears flow in their rivers.
And surely enough, such is the history of the world of Ezulroth, rich in tales. Such as that of Giorxon and The Slaughterer.
Yticmor, 1236 AC (After the monarchy of Calvendar)
The portal opened like a blossoming flower, searing orange petals of furious flame and energy unfolding into a swirling circle before Giorxon’s eyes. The light was too bright for mortal eyes, making his head ache and nearly blinding him. If it weren’t for the fresh juice of the feloniya grass that he had so tremblingly squeezed between his lids prior to the opening of the portal, he would surely have lost his sight, as the pages of dusty tomes assured.
The portal, howling like a thousand wolves, blazing and gaping like a giant eye before him, tendrils of orange lashing and spinning out of its infinite nexus. He had managed it. For the first time.
It was open. Hot winds blasted against his skin, biting. He raised his arms to his face, trying to keep the light and heat from tearing into his face. There was a shape in the burning circle, out of the nexus a blurred shadow emerged.
Around him, the candles leaped with renewed flame before winking out, thin lines of smoke running out of their wicks. The beheaded doves fluttered away along the floor on the tide of infernal winds, looking grotesquely alive as they did so. The shape emerged, and abruptly, the portal closed, the flower folding into itself, the eyes rapidly shutting its invisible lids to seal the fury beyond. The hot wind, the light, all disappeared.
It was done. He had succeeded. After ages, he had managed to cast a Ninth Level Summoning. He had opened a from worlds far beyond the mortal plane. Some said Summoning portals opened from Hell itself. It was most likely; for what other dimension, what other world could spawn forth the creatures sorcerers and magi extracted into the mortal plane for their protection, or other needs? If it was true, then Giorxon had looked into the very fires of Hell for a second.
It was not the first time he had done so, for Giorxon had summoned before, but never a Ninth Level portal. He could not believe he had finally succeeded.
Giorxon, sorcerer and mercenary mage. Giorxon, tall and proud, born and bred in the western city of Yticmor, looked upon those he had summoned. Fresh from fiery depths, metal and muscle steaming.
Giorxon Danermuk was practiced in the forbidden art of summoning. Many times in his career had he brought forth from blazing portal those that were known to men as demons. The baser denizens of Hell, servants to the Lords of the Realm of Chaos, minions of the Daemons. Or so mortals of the world said. There was no proof, in fact, that the beings that emerged from the experimentations of humans gifted in the magical arts, were from the mythical plains of Hell. But it was assumed so, for they greatly resembled the demons of old, listed in ancient bestiaries by the Paladins. Demons that had walked the earthly plane as armies of Hell aeons before when they battled the forces of Heaven for domination of the mortal world, after the corruption of its Creator Ezulroth.
Thus it was on the second month of 1236 AC that, on the day of his birth, Giorxon Danermuk opened a portal larger than any he had managed in his life, a portal to let through something much larger than the familiars that had served him before. Something truly dangerous.
Giorxon squinted through the watery haze of tears and feloniya juice at the shape that had emerged from the magnificent nexus. It had walked through the blazing centre of the portal. Unlike the others before, the familiars—they screamed and howled as they flew shivering through. This one walked, and stood proud, hulking. It was a true demon, finally, and his to control
He looked. The looming figure in the centre of the drawn circle of blood on the floor stared back in heavy silence. Damning the juice, Giorxon rubbed his eyes and observed.
The demon in the centre stood tall, smoke rushing off it. Six and a half feet in height, humanoid in shape. Plates of armour as black and lustrous as obsidian encrusted its body like scales, strapped with links of chain to a body chorded with gleaming muscle that shone in the dim light with rancid humours that sent the room reeking. In its massive fists, clawed with metal, it held a giant war axe, the heathen runes etched onto the edges of its blade glowing with heat. The steaming warrior turned its hot glare on its summoner, red eyes like pinpoints of fire within the visor of its helm, from which arced long horns of bleached and gleaming bone.
Its armour was part of its body, molded into flesh over the years. It growled, and under the helm twisted lips curled; gleaming fangs were bared and parted to release a fetid and warm breath. Its eyes burned.
Giorxon, his own burnished brass armour and ceremonial velvet cloak lined with fur seeming immensely inadequate, raised his hand in greeting. This was definitely no imp.
"I am Giorxon Danermuk, your master here on this plane."
Despite his fear, the mage spoke with the utmost confidence as he looked upon the infernal warrior. He was its summoner, and it would bow down to him, he thought.
"Giorxon." A voice that echoed of fire and nails, of suffering and pain. Giorxon, it had mimicked.
"You will serve me, demon, without questions."
Giorxon waited for a response. The demon breathed, filling the room with blurred heat. It raised its axe and pointed towards. Giorxon.
Giorxon’s eyes widened, tears induced from juice and fear rolling tremulously down his cheeks and dripping off his roughly bearded chin. The spell had failed. He had not managed, after all. Not in completion—he had only brought a demon before him, without the slightest incentive to serve a mortal. The tears fell and streaked his brass armour. In the summoning hall, a stray gust of wind fluttered the feathers of dead doves, danced with the sprightly flames of tallow candles, and lifted the edges of Giorxon’s cloak. He wondered if he had made a mistake. A mistake in the incantations, or perhaps a mistake in even trying to summon on the Ninth Level. He spoke again, in a voice cold and clear, hiding his terror in the trembling of his hands, tucked underneath his cloak of sinuously shining cloth. "You, demon, will serve me. For I have summoned you; on this plane, I have bound you in servitude. You will obey me."
Giorxon waited then, and the demon’s eyes burned like kindling stars. It growled, a vibration from deep within its visage like the rumbling of the deep earth in shaken mountains. The demon nodded slowly.
Giorxon brushed away his tears and smiled. No. he had made no mistake after all. No mistake at all.
Many moons before the summoning on his birthday, the sorcerer and mercenary, merchant and hunter Giorxon had roamed the forests of Shaitul, far western cousin of the southern birch lands of the Shurai. For Giorxon was a hunter. On the eve of winter’s peak he rode through crisp snow for the pleasures of the hunt.
On his cloak of crimson and white flew Giorxon’s standard; on his own back his banner flew; its vivid colours rippling in the frosty air to proclaim to the frozen trees the arrival of the great hunter. He hunted, but not with bow. For he sought the forbidden art of denar’makau, to hunt with magic. To use the sublime powers of mana for the trivial task of killing animals for pleasure and food.
In the wintry air Giorxon flew on his stallion, snow crushed and hurled in powdery clouds as hooves thundered, leaving slush behind.
Into the forests had he descended, the dark ashes and twisted trees, coiled in the painful embrace of the cold season looming out of the mists like ghosts. As sunlight burned the moisture away, Giorxon crept lower against the snow, his standard, his cloak trailing wet on the white ground. A fine deer he saw, plump and young. Its antlers and fur dusted with crushed ice. He had hunted.
Eyes slitted, one hand raised. And a flash.
The deer had pranced away like the wind itself, but it had no chance. The light, blue and hot in the morning air, chasing it like the sun. The animal had flown off its hooves and landed twitching; the beautiful fur of its haunch burnt to black and steaming. Such was the pleasure of the denar hunting. It was dead before it hit the ground. And it had stood no chance.
The dagger had appeared, and blood was spilled to sizzle in the snow. The carcass emptied, Giorxon had prepared to return to the walls of Yticmor when the wind blew a sweet and heavy perfume that made him dizzy with sleepy pleasure. He looked, on the corpse of the animal there fell little pink specks that stuck in its fur. It rained small flowers on the northern breeze, little flowers that clung to his skin and the deer’s blood. The winter’s breath, its petals in bloom even in the frost of the late seasons. With it came a sweet and melodious sound. In his hunt, Giorxon found something unexpected. He followed the rain of flowers, with blood on his blade and hands. He crawled to a grove, where a girl sang in robes that mimicked the sparkling snow. Her tender face glowing with the roses of youth, auburn hair gleaming. A girl, sweet and beautiful. Giorxon had seen her, and wanted her. For she was beautiful, like the deer. It was his hunt. With flowers raining onto her flowing ribbons of hair, her pretty face reflecting the sun.
She had observed the sudden intruder into her grove. A handsome man, with closely cut beard sheathing a face that spoke of rich blood. Long hair, and the bright symbol of his house trailing behind him by his burnished shoulder plates.
She looked to him in fear, for his eyes glowed with lust.
"What is your name?"
"Cymbelia." She asked him too. She asked him who he was, and unspoken thought it wrong for him to interrupt her gathering the flower fall, to ease the air of her room in the city.
Giorxon was enchanted, for in the rain of the flowers his mind was dazzled with beauty, and in her voice and name he found what he thought to be true love.
He asked her to love him, Giorxon.
She had refused, strangely enough for Giorxon. But Giorxon would take no refusal, for he knew in his mind that he loved her truly, and Cymbelia would love him, whether or not she wanted to. So he used his strength and power to pluck the rose of youth from her cheeks, to deliver into her flesh his burning and intoxicated love. She knew it to be lust, but her young flesh could not withstand his power, and a struggling union was made on the snow of the forest, her skin turning cold with each thrust of the sorcerer and hunter.
In that winter, Giorxon hunted innocence in the forest of Shaitul.
After Giorxon’s embrace was spent, and the girl was limp under him, her skin lustrous with tears; he was attacked. Out of the mist came Cymbelia’s gaurdian Zapheren, with armour frosted in the cold and blade drawn. For she was the daughter of the Lord Cehif of Yticmor, and travelled nowehere without one to watch over her. Zapheren was away only on the orders of Cymbelia, told to gambol by the streams to the east of the forest while she collected her flowers and sang. She wished for solitude. And he gave it to her, foolishly.
Zapheren and Giorxon sparred, but the battle lasted no longer than a minute, their blades clashing briefly, and with the fury of falling stars. But Giorxon fled before the wrath of his love’s guardian, clutching in his arms the crumpled symbol of his house, his cloak, so that the warrior would not glimpse it as he ran. It pained him greatly, but he ran from the girl.
So it was he turned to the magical arts for solace.
On his birthday a demon was sent to the Palace of Yticmor to bring to Giorxon the daughter of a Lord, and secure her forbidden love by slaying her father.
Zapheren of the Lord’s Guard of Yticmor, Guardian of Cymbelia, daughter of Ulyve Cehif of Yticmor, stood on the chilly balcony, looking out onto the glittering lights of the city, and the faded humps of the hills to the far northwest like the spine of some great mammoth on the horizon. The winter approached again, a time of dark memory. For it was in the cold seasons of the previous year that Zapheren had failed grievously in his duties, gambolling by a stream while the Lord’s daughter was raped. Under the armour and fabric of his clothes, the white scars still remained on his back where his whip had fallen, a hundred and twenty times. By his own hand, in the dark confines of the Palace cells, while he breathed the nauseating fumes of burning weeproot, the incense of penance. The Lord had been kind, and he had been lucky to keep his position.
He had returned to his position after six months of confinement. And he had sworn never to fail the sweet girl again.
The moon had risen, and night fallen. Zapheren blew on his hands as an icy wind blew across the balcony; behind and above him the towers of the palace loomed up towards the fragmented clouds of the dark blue sky. He looked behind him, to the fluttering silk curtains of Cymbelia’s bedroom. Here she was safe. The walls of the palace bristled day and night with guards. He would never fail her again, within or without the walls.
A shadow, flickering at the edge of his vision, climbing over the balcony’s edge. He swiveled to see the vast figure of something dark, smell a rancid odour of rot. Red eyes flickered in the dark of the horned shape. Zapheren unsheathed his longsword.
But before he could unsheath it, his helmed head flew straight off his neck, which leaked helpless streams down the metal of his armoured torso. Lifelessly the body fell, and the head plummeted over the balcony. Dark blood dripped from the heathen symbols of a great war axe, the sinuous lines of the carvings glowing with fresh life to feed the blade’s hatred. The demon’s hatred.
Cymbelia twitched in her sleep, and awoke at the sound of metal hitting the ground. There was blood spattered on the whispering curtains of the balcony, a massive shape. A horned thing out of nightmares, lurking out of cold night. The sweat grew cold on her skin, and she moaned in despair. She was dreaming, and she could not awake. Every night she would dream, dream of him again and again. Dream of the dark hunter of innocence that had pierced her heart with his arrow in a winter far away. Cymbelia dreamed of Giorxon, he had said Giorxon. His name. Dreamed every night of Giorxon the hunter creeping into her room, slaying her guardian and her innocence like he had done in the forest.
Giorxon, but twisted by nightmares, red eyed, glowering with hatred. This time he carried a battle axe.
Giorxon waited for the demon’s return. He lay on his plush bed of felt, staring at the skylight. Through the ornately framed glass a hundred stars burned on patiently. Giorxon was eager.
As Giorxon slept, the demon came. And went.
And the skylight shattered into a million pieces like stars descending from the sky to sear Giorxon with cold bite. Glass showered like pink flowers of winter, and a head, cleanly severed from its body at the neck, fell on his velvet bed. The head of a young girl, with cold skin and beautiful face. Hair glowing. Cymbelia’s head. The demon had brought her to him. Giorxon howled to the open skylight, to the dark skies as he held the young girl’s head in his arms, till his hands glowed red with her blood. He howled for vengeance, and he vowed with Cymbelia’s blood on his hands that he would destroy the rogue demon he had summoned. The demon he had failed to bind in servitude. He would destroy it. Giorxon never broke a vow.
On 17th of the tenmonth of 1236 AC the city of Yticmor was appalled by the dreadful murders of Lord Cehif and his daughter. Whispers of terrible carnage crept through roadsides and homesteads, tales of horrific death at the palace. It was said in hushed tones in dark inn corners that the Maiden Cymbelia’s head was missing, and her corpse hollowed of its entrails, and that the body of the Lord had been painted from head to toe in the colour of his own blood.
The city was without a ruler, for the Lord’s wife had long since died of disease. A hunt was setup by the Palace Guard, a reward promised to any that found and slew the killer. It was not the end of the horror.
In the weeks that followed, one buy one, people died. In and around Yticmor, the dead appeared like winter’s blossoms.
First they appeared in the centre of the fine city, near the magi’s district. A young apprentice in the biting dawn had emerged to make for the fresh turnips in the market, and in an alleyway, in the red glow of the early sun he saw a massive cloaked figure. The man—the cloaked figure—spoke to him, and had eyes like red fire and a horned helm. The last thing the apprentice saw was the blade of an axe, as it descended to cleave his chest. His corpse, white and blue in the cold, was found in a ditch filled with rotten vegetables.
The apprentice’s torso was hewn down the centre, and hollowed of its insides, spilled to the vegetables.
The magi’s district; to the north of it, Giorxon Danermuk lived.
The death moved outwards, from the magi’s district to the market area adjacent. People spoke of a giant cloaked man passing amongst them, with a helm horned like monsters out of myth. Yet, no one seemed to remember where or when they had seen him. In one corner of the city, under a broken skylight, holding in his arms a gruesome trophy everyday he woke, Giorxon wept and wept among a cloud of flies.
And three more bodies, cleaved open like shells to be scraped clean. Severed heads were found nestled amongst the ample fruit of sacks and crates in stalls.
The shadow of the giant man in the black cloak travelled outwards still. The days passed, and in homes and shops, alleys and corners, the remnants of murder haunted the people of Yticmor. No killer was found, a week passed, and the city was without a Lord or Lady. The murders went on, relentlessly.
In a forge on the northeastern sector, six corpses were found slain and strung around the blast furnaces on chains and hooks, the heat keeping their naked flesh from rotting.
All knew it was the work of one: the giant in the black cloak. One the people of Yticmor simply named The Slaughterer. Some said he was a great adventurer, driven insane by his exploits. Others said he was a killer wishing for fame and attention in a series of murders. All agreed that never in the history of the western lands of the kingdom had they ever witnessed such carnage, caused by one person.
This caused others to speculate that he was not a person.
After a week and a half had passed, the murders left the city. In the gloomy morn of the Glinderr Stretch beyond the walls of Yticmor, where green grasses spread out to the horizon on gently undulating hills and vales, a farmer witnessed a great warrior stride up to him through the mists. A rippling cloak of black followed him, and within a helm horned like a monster, his eyes seemed to glow red.
A giant. Rumours had spread of The Slaughterer.
"Who might you be?" said the farmer to the giant. The cloak sifted on grass still wafting gently scented seeds on the waning winds of the warmer seasons. The cold ones were moving in. The man with the red eyes said only "Giorxon.", before bringing out of the recesses of the smoldering black cloak an axe that hit the farmer’s throat. His wife and son found him headless, with The Slaughterer of Yticmor holding in one hand clawed in metal the farmer’s head, and a war axe that glowed with hunger for the blood on its two blades in the other.
The Slaughterer had run from the city.
It was discerned by the Guard of Yticmor that The Slaughterer had fled to the forest plateau of Torazeim, leaving more murder in his wake. It was Elevenmonth, 1236 AC, and the killer of the Lord and his daughter was still loose, and slayer of more than thirty ever since.
It was on that month that Giorxon Danermuk, respected sorcerer, mercenary and huntsman, raised an army of his own to destroy the Slaughterer. Giorxon proclaimed to the huddled rabble that The Slaughterer was a rogue demon, summoned and unbound by a foolish and careless mage, Teran Vohelin, who he brought before the crowds unconscious. The man was pelted to death before he was given the chance for explanation. It was little known that Teran was a great rival of Giorxon’s in earlier days, and had often angered the latter through petty competition.
No more could he do so.
Giorxon was seen in dark times to be great and wise, a shining beacon in the gloaming. He raised a horde of men and women with torches and stones, and even the Lordless Guard was blinded by his seemingly unfaltering courage and resilience. Thus did Giorxon lead the Guard of Yticmor to the slopes of the forested Torazeim, with ballistae and catapults, bow and arrow, lines of armoured soldiers that had once served the Lord. He swore to them with a voice of melodious hope:
"I will avenge the death of the noble Lord Cehif, and moreso, I will avenge the death of his beautiful daughter Cymbelia! This I swear to all that stand before me! Now, let the forest burn to reveal the cowardly demon that hides within!" And behind him, flying in the wind from the burnished metal of his shoulder plates, flew the proud standard of his house in blazing crimson that dazzled the eyes of the Lord’s soldiers. Giorxon’s cloak, the cloak that was the banner of his blood.
Thus it came to be that the forest of Torazeim was razed and burnt with flaming boulders and bolts, hurled into the leaves of the once aromatic leaves of the numerous trees, to fall before the wrath of Giorxon. For a girl had fallen, a girl that would have accepted his love if not for the deception of a foul demon. So he chanted to himself, within his golden helm, and velvet cloak, and plated armour
In the forest of Torazeim, the demon lurked under swaying eaves and thought, as best it was capable of doing so under the veils of hate that wreathed it’s black mind. It thought, it remembered it’s home, so far away. The familiar delights of its fiery plains, its dark slopes of obsidian, the crimson rivers that flowed among its dark soils. Mostly, it remembered the companionship of hate, the company of malice.
It was alone, stranded in a world so, so cold. There were none like him; he was alone, all alone. There were the weak, to sate his bloodlust, his hatred, but none to share with it the black death he brought upon the pale flesh of the cold world. It wanted to go back. And only one word hung in its mind: Giorxon.
And out of the skies it rained fire, the trees springing into flame and lighting the forest with blazing tones of red and orange. It was familiar to the demon. Flowers withered in the heat, leaves curled to black shreds, animals fled their holes shrieking. Some blackened in the rain of fire, howling to the earth their pain. It was familiar to the demon, and he found momentary joy in it. But as the trees fell, in the cold world he realised that the fire was hurting him. Shelter was falling.
Then, out of the horizons came the army of black, like ants upon the grass clad hills. Armoured and robed in jet, with blades the same colour. The Brotherhood of Ezulroth had sent a detachment of their own to the Torazeim, to protect a demon stranded in the burning forest. For they believed that the forces of Hell were to be honoured, respected as the true deities, for it was Hell that unleashed the true power of the Creator of the world. It was Hell that gave Ezulroth His true power, before He was cruelly imprisoned by his fellow Gods of Heaven.
Thus did the Brotherhood’s own dark soldiers descend, and Giorxon witnessed and commanded against them a battle, which would later be known as the War of Torazeim. He himself slaughtered the leader of the black detachment in front of his bloodied ranks of Yticmor soldiers. He swung into the helmed warrior’s head his sword, and tugged it out to unleash a fountain of blood that sprayed on the fine brass of his armour and branded him a true leader. The rest of the small detachment ran from the slopes of the burning plateau, having washed it in their companions’ blood.
By the time the sun waned upon the day, the forest upon the plateau was a burning plain of devastation, a flat land of ash and rubble that swept up to the winds hot fire and smoke. Giorxon had razed the forest, and given birth to the Torazeim Plain.
Even as the plateau was burned near bare of cover, the demon did not emerge, and the soldiers on either side of the plateau grew fearful and impatient. It was then that Giorxon bravely went forth into the hellish landscape of his newborn plain.
As the sun began to set, and the air became even colder, the demon saw Giorxon come to him through the blaze of blackened stumps and ashen fields. Giorxon, his summoner. His hatred grew to unimaginable proportions, but he wondered, for Giorxon might be able to save him from an eternity in the cold world.
"Giorxon.", it growled in desperation, eyes burning as if in mimicry of the flaming trees; the heat licked its black cloak. Its axe was drawn, ready to destroy should the need arise.
But Giorxon saw its desperation, and raised his arm in truce. "Demon. Do not kill me. I come to end the destruction you and I have caused." The demon vaguely remembered killing a girl that the summoner had called Cymbelia. Destruction? He was born for destruction.
"Hear me. I can free you, demon, if so you wish. If it will end this, I will untie the bonds of your summoning, and return you to the place from whence you emerged." The demon’s eyes shone with furious hope, and it nodded. "Then so be it. Kneel down on the ashes of this newborn plain, and let it be done." The demon kneeled, clutching its axe in anticipation of its return. Giorxon walked behind the demon. "You wish to return to your home?" The demon nodded. "Then be at peace." Around them, the fires blew hot ash and smoke to the south. "For you will never see it again." The demon raised its head, just as Giorxon sliced it off with a mighty swing of his sword. "Such is my vengeance, wretched Deceiver, for the murder of Cymbelia!" And it was done. Giorxon returned to his army with the head of the demon speared on his blade, and he rode back to the walls of the city with it skewered on a pike, for all to see. The great sorcerer was hailed a hero and a leader, and declared Lord of Yticmor, for he had vanquished The Slaughterer, the evil mistake of a foolish mage. The Saviour of Yticmor, and Avenger of Lord Cehif and his daughter. So it was said.
1236 AC, Lord Giorxon Danermuk became ruler of Yticmor. The city suffered ten years of misfortune, crime, and poverty. At winter’s peak of each year of his reign, young girls disappeared without a trace, and it was said that the Lord had kidnapped such to quench his lust during the cold seasons. He was a brutal and miserable ruler. But all loved him, and spoke tenderly of their Lord, for he was a hero, and had defeated the Slaughterer and avenged the death of the previous Lord. And his daughter.
On the tenth year, Lord Danermuk was assassinated. It was told in hushed whispers that it was the work of a strange new faction of women, that proclaimed themselves Liberators. It was a strange assassination. All the same, though many mourned his death, few regretted it, despite their guilt, for he was a hero.
And Avenger of the Cehifs. Of Cymbelia.
There ends the tale of Giorxon and The Slaughterer, though its true form is little told, except by brave seers in underground taverns. The same seers speak of history having pages distorted by time and circumstance.
The last symbol of Giorxon’s rise and fall lie in his grave, marked by the sword with which he felled The Slaughterer, on the very spot where it is said he performed the deed. Around the cross of its hilt lies the Plain he Giorxon gave birth to; a land of ashes and black soil, a swamp of desolation since the year 1236 AC.
Indrapramit Das is an 18 year old student from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. He is currently studying A-levels in the Calcutta International School Society and hopes to continue his education abroad.
Visit Aphelion's Lettercolumn and voice your opinion of this story.
Return to the Aphelion main page.