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The Iron World - An Elderspace Tale
From the journals of a Celestial Knight
THE IRON WORLD
By J.M Barnes
The stars were uncountable but in truth most of them were nothing more than illusions. It had been difficult dealing with the disappointment upon discovering that fact. The Universe had limits, you see. It was encapsulated within an immeasurable sphere of unknown origin. Upon its inner surface, runes the size of worlds dominated the endless expanse while racing in an endless circle upon its surface was an enormous galactic beast which took a new animal form each mortal year. Upon its back the iron world of Baltoriax rested and revolved upon its own axis. There were suns in this most ancient of spheres, two separate systems orbited them but no heat or light ever touched the surface of the iron world.
To say it was dark upon the surface of Baltoriax would not be correct. In truth the planet had a source of heat and light all its own. Not very deep beneath its surface molten iron moved and shifted, occasionally erupting in huge gouts that would scar the landscape. Nothing had ever evolved there. Since time immemorial it had been the chosen battle ground of the gods. Not their armies, mind you. Only personal battles were allowed and once finished the consequences were always dire.
When two gods chose to bring their enmity to such an extreme as personal combat Elderspace demanded some compensation. The god that loses the duel is banished in every godly form from Elderspace. Only after a thousand mortal years have passed may that deity return in any way shape or form to the universe which cast them out. Even then they would be forced to pass a series of tests in order to do so.
Orfaeus Faezir had ridden his celestial Pegasus alongside the scuttled vessel, The Scarlet Waif, as it plummeted at increasing velocity toward Baltoriax. The Celestial Beast which carried the world was so incredibly immense it never took notice of the tiny pests flying nearby.
Orfaeus was human once. He had since become something more after taking up the mantle of Celestial Knight of Halren. He’d stopped aging centuries ago and he no longer had a need for air or food, although he still enjoyed good charred beef from his home world. He had turned a dark blue color for some reason his god never felt the need to explain but he rarely met human beings in the far reaches of space anyway. There was no reason to worry over harsh reactions.
He’d found the scuttled ship, broken and holed in several places three days ago. Since then he’d followed it with hopes of keeping innocent’s safe from its passage. Such was life as a servant of the god of law and vengeance.
The ship looked much like a seagoing vessel. It would have resembled a caravel most of all but there the similarities ended. It was painted in garish reds and yellows while its pennants were a striped affair that hurt the eyes upon staring at them too long. Whomever was responsible for overhauling the vessel however had been nowhere in sight. He had called out and even landed on the ship’s deck at one point but it seemed nothing living remained on board. Now as the ship hurtled toward Baltoriax it looked like its journey was coming to a crashing end. Orfaeus would be free to return to his favorite haunts until another threat needed to be dealt with.
He could feel the heat coming off the planet as its shadow blocked out the endless gray of the sphere. The giant runes and winking lights that resembled stars to those on the surface of the many planets in the universe were too massive to see completely since he was so close to its surface. As he looked forward in the blackness of space he could see the light pouring from the endless runes like curtains of light pouring up from the sphere into space. It was breathtaking in its magnificence. The Celestial Knight nearly jumped from his dragon leather saddle when he heard the high pitched scream.
He looked back toward the ship and he saw her. She was waving frantically at him. Clearly she’d determined what was about to occur. Without delay he tugged the reigns of his mighty steed and it screamed out in reply. Its mighty effervescent wings never moved as it simply willed itself to match the speed of the plummeting vessel. The stink of the poisonous atmosphere began to touch their senses. Orfaeus could see the woman covering her mouth with her robe.
The Pegasus approached with perfect form. The Knight lowered one arm and held tight to the reins with the other as he prepared to lift the woman to the rear of his saddle. Her aura gave her away just before he let her hand touch his. As he pulled away and his steed suddenly veered off he could hear her wretched screams calling out curses after him.
She wanted vengeance, something he could understand but her evil was palpable. She was not human and nor was she even alive. He looked back and saw her gleaming fangs, knowing instantly what that meant. Now, he realized what had happened to the Scarlet Waif. Clearly the vampire had been attacked and the ship had been sent purposefully toward the edge of the sphere. Although the winking non-stars gave off no harmful radiation it was instant destruction to anything not divine which touched them.
Almost. He almost saved an evil creature from ultimate destruction. Halren would not have been pleased. He watched as the ship finally breached the hazy atmosphere of the iron world and smashed onto its surface. Although it had not reached the sphere the iron world was rumored to be instant death to anything or one who was not a deity.
The poisonous gases could harm neither he nor his steed so they neared the surface to ensure the vampire’s destruction. What they discovered was beyond imagining. The ship had not reached the surface after all. Instead it had pierced the back of a colossal being who was even now reeling on the ground as the Scarlet Waif protruded from his massive back by its prow. Its voiced anguish made Orfaeus clutch his ears and scream and his steed was struck with a sudden vertigo that sent it wheeling recklessly through the vapors.
Another voice roared through the barrage, laughing of all things.
“Ha! My servant has dealt you a grievous blow, prepare for your banishment!” Another massive deity stood nearby and this one was clearly a vampiric god of some kind. It bore the telltale fangs and gleam in the eye that told the tale.
His opponent reeled on his knees. His skin was a deep blood red and covered in bleeding runes while the vampire god was a pale and dry contrast. Orfaeus took all of this in and struggled to aid his steed in regaining its bearings. A gout of molten iron shot up into the air and nearly destroyed one of its wings. It had little concern for the battle as it tried to gain altitude.
The vampiric deity loomed over the fallen blood god and laughed again. He reached down and seemed to be picking something up and just barely could the Knight see the female vampire in the palm of his hand. The deity didn’t take a moment to consider as he clapped his hands together and completely destroyed his loyal servant, her sacrifice unrewarded.
The blood god seized on the momentary distraction and thrust both hands forward with knife like precision. Each of his fingers pierced deep within the chest of the vampiric god. His red skin began to glow brightly as he poured most of his power into his ancient nemesis. The vampire could only scream and shudder as the power coursed through him and continued to build. Finally, far above the obscured surface Orfaeus could see the final explosion take place and wash over Baltoriax. It bore the bright red signature of the blood god and he knew then the victor.
“Be gone from this place, child. We have seen enough.” It was the whispered voice of his god, Halren.
“I hear, my lord, and obey!” Without hesitation Orfaeus tapped his heels onto his steed’s sides. This was a command it knew well. With faster than light speed it left the spinning iron orb far behind. At the last instant the Knight looked back and watched as a blood red bird of prey took shape over the world and took flight from its surface. Thankfully it seemed to ignore him as it passed him at an impossible speed. While his steed was gifted with the ability to fly as fast as stellar craft the gods were gifted beyond mortal ken.
Wherever it was going the blood god was clearly victorious. The evidence was written on the surface of the vampire god’s skin. It had gone from parchment pale to blood red and each of the runes that marked the skin of the blood god was present as well. Through his connection with his deity Orfaeus sensed the trepidation his god was feeling. It appeared a law had been broken and his job was not quite finished. Clearly rather than destroying his enemy the blood god had done something much more insidious. He had taken the form and identity of the vampire god and made it his own. Rather than creating a swathe of godless vampires across the universe he’d simply taken over the role. Not even the vampire god’s closest priests would know what had occurred. Their domains of influence were so similar it would be a simple matter to hide the truth from the outside world. However, Halren was a god of law and vengeance. More importantly he was a direct son of Gaea the current All Goddess of the sphere. Therefore it was his duty to dispense justice when the laws of space and time were disobeyed. Gaea was not to be deceived.
Shrugging his shoulders Orfaeus steered his steed after the fast moving deity. It left a trail of corrupt plasma behind that a blind captain of a floating comet could follow. It would stop eventually and when it did it would have much to answer for. Wondering what he was going to do if the deity ignored his decree and struck at him he urged his Celestial Pegasus to even faster speeds. The last thing he wanted it to realize was exactly how powerful it had become. With the power of two gods it would be nigh unstoppable by even the greatest of champions.
Orfaeus clutched the pommel of his favorite lance and prayed to his lord and deity that it would strike true. No matter the power of the offender his will was reinforced by Halren. The law must be obeyed.
- The Chosen Few - An Elderspace tale
Second in a series o fcreative shorts which outline the unique gaming universe of Elderspace! Done how only Barnsey can do it!