A Curse of Bone and Ice
The gray waves slammed hard against the bergs, causing frigid spray to be sent over the small dock. Beornhold watched from his throne in the Great Hall, his face set in grim lines. The news from Filicudi and Alicudi was disastrous. Eternal had returned with the full might of all his fury behind him. The Oberjarl had hoped that with a united Aiolia, they would be able to resist the mad tyrant, that they could drive him from their land forevermore.
It was not to be.
Those few men that were able to flee before his onslaught reported that he commanded the sky, thunder and lightning striking at his will as the rain poured from the blackened clouds. Golems that had once fought by their side had turned against them. Violet fire dripped from his hands and eyes as he walked into the captured city of FIlicudi, waves of force slapping aside any who dared to attack.
Alicudi had been a massacre. The besieging forces attempted to flee to their ships before the raging tempest, but all were cast against the shore or burned alive by the unquenchable fire.
Beornhold leaned forward, placing his face in his hands. His foolish hope of restoring Osias’ legacy, of defeating the Pestilence that presided over his people, was dashed. There would be no united Aiolia, there would be no freedom.
The trumpets of thunder resounded through the hall. The storm was approaching. Beornhold let his hands slip from his face as he gazed down the silent rows of men, women, and children standing before him. They would all surely fall before the Tempest, the god of hate.
Beornhold reached to his left, grasping the axe that had been his family’s legacy since the death of their Father. It had a single bronze head, the shaft long and made of strong oak. Osias was engraved on the blade dozens of times, running through the dull gold like a river. He stood, straightening his back.
His people were dead. Eternal would not let this act of rebellion go unpunished. He hefted the axe above his head and shouted. It was not a word of man, but a sound that screamed defiance. Three hundred voices sounded with him, the noise echoing out from the hall, drowning out even the thunder.
They waited. Ranks of men stood in the freezing spray of the sea and pelting hail of storm. Some would slip and fall on the ice in the cresting waves, but they would return to their feet. In the face of extinction, they had no choice. It was either to die fighting or to die. So they stood. At long last, the Tempest arrived.
He strode upon the water as if the waves were gentling rolling hills. His left arm was tied to his chest in a sling, and his garb was stained with blood. His eyes were unholy sparks, dripping royal flames. Like the sun, it hurt to gaze into them, but three hundred men stared death in the face and did not flinch. The demon stopped at the front of their iceberg, regarding them with a cold fury that chilled more than the frost of sea and sky.
“You will not die today.”
No noise but the whistling wind, crashing spray, and distant thunder could be heard. Eternal’s voice rang out like a bell, cutting through them all.
“Instead, you will live to see your children suffer and perish.”
Eternal raised his hand and three hundred spears were readied to throw. Instead, he waved a farewell, turning his back to the massed Basiluzzites.
As he stepped into the sea once more, spears sailed past him. They couldn’t seem to touch him, as wind simply blasted the shafts away. With a final stride behind an iceberg, Eternal left the survivors of his purge to their fate.
Beornhold’s axe fell from his tense hands. They, against all odds, had survived. It seemed as though the gods did have some semblance of mercy. Basiluzzo cheered, having avoided extinction. Yet Eternal’s final words would not leave the Oberjarl’s mind.
“You will live to see your children suffer and perish.”