The Tenth

Copyright Thomas Kowalczyk © 2004

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

"Had I possessed a body, I would have trembled at the memory of Him, but even this luxury is denied me."

Smoke there was, and fire. How long I had been here I did not know, for time had long ceased to have a meaning. There was just the gloom, an endless span of waiting in a world where all colours had been bleached from my vision. Only the dying fire of His forge persisted, its flames mere embers in the furnace of my prison.

That day, a weight was on my spirit, almost as if He were coming to this place of screaming metal and lost souls. A memory stirred, a memory of a blade piercing my body... The grip of ice in my veins... How the knife had evaporated in the sun's light ... How long since the fogs welling up then had claimed my spirit? I could not remember, and I could not remember who I had been before. Sometimes I saw faces as if in a fever, heard names that might have held meaning in my life. But in the world I now inhabited there were few things I could clearly recall. One of these was the pale king who had wielded the knife. There were also his fellow wraiths, who made me do vile deeds while I could only watch myself in horrified fascination. And then there was Him. Had I possessed a body, I would have trembled at the memory of Him, but even this luxury is denied me. I had seen Him only a few times, but I knew that He commanded the wraiths just as they ruled me. And I knew also that He had made them but playthings of His malice.

It was something akin to His presence that I felt on this day, a growing pressure on my mind. It pervaded the nothingness of my being and filled it with fear. Even the forge-fires became fitful, as if a spirit inhabiting them was seeking escape. Yet I knew it could not be Him, for when He came from His tower, He came quickly along the road of iron I had helped build. My mind reached out to His servants, my only companions in this vigil, making sure they were ready for whatever approached.

Our wait did not take long. I could clearly see the being that entered - it was not just a blur moving in my world of shades like everything else. It was small and pitiful and at the same time large and cloaked in white, the promise of Power and death in its hand. For a moment, I felt something I had thought long forgotten - admiration for this being that walked into the heart of His realm, openly defying Him. But had it truly thought it could just walk in here? Into His forge, vast enough to house a legion, which had in ancient times been guarded by a dragon?

While I stood regarding the figure, unsure yet how to continue, something changed - the light surrounding it went out. In its place there was now a being wreathed in dying fire, a sight to create fear and demand dominion. It had claimed the Dark for itself! I don't know if the wave of hatred which hit me then was my own or if it was the anger of the Dark One when he finally realised that his enemies had deceived him. I only knew that I hated this being, hated it like I would hate Him if I did not fear Him so much. I hated this small one because it was weak and vulnerable and yet claimed the same Power that the Master of the Tower had. Here was my chance to avenge myself, to make someone suffer for the pain of this existence in the void that was my soul. I reached out with my mind and directed my minions to cut him off from the chamber's entrance. At the same time, I drew a black dart that had been forged in the pale king's city. There was a scuffle at the entrance, where my minions had killed two more of the small creatures. But this concerned me not; I sighted on the one who wore the veil of smoke, and let fly. He fell without a sound.

When the smoke cleared I could see what it had concealed, a band of burning gold was on the fallen form, gleaming brightly here in the place of its birth. When moments later the wraiths appeared, carried here on swift wings from the north, they took the piece of gold from the small creature and carried me with them to His tower. With cries of triumph, we outraced even the eagles and dove through the poisonous clouds that encircled the pinnacle of His might. At last then He came forth. I shall never forget the sight as He put on the golden band that had been His of old. In this the greatest moment of His victory, His Eye fell upon me, praising me, and I was transformed and elevated to replace the one who had fallen in the west.

I am now the Tenth, and we are Nine again.