The Enmity of Scolrys, Part XXVIV: The Brightest Sword

Lexadhra lifted a hand and pinched the air with Her thumb and index finger, the view of foreign land expanding and contracting in a rapid flux of historical imagery.

“Alengarth was like your Hammer, in some ways: fiercely devout and equally independent – a monument to zeal and prayer. It held no belief like your Light, however… no, instead, Alengarth was a city of cults and priesthoods,” the Indelible Lady orated, Her gaze locked to the mural ‘neath Her command. “A tapestry of competition and faith, held together by the thread of community. All religions and Elders were welcome.”

The mural continued to shift and change as its view affixed to a specific point in time and space long gone and never seen: a colossal city upon a coastal cliff just at the edge of that unknown desolation. Soon, the quicksilver hurried to obey Lady Lexadhra, becoming a vivid tableau of merchants, priests, warriors and rulers upon cobbled streets ‘neath scorching suns and glistening moons.

Her tone soft as silk, Lexadhra pressed on: “A beautiful place, Alengarth – host to cults and priesthoods and covens dedicated to Elder power. They competed amongst themselves to prove their devotion and gain influence in the city.”

As Incarnate Memory proceeded to speak, She did so over the cries of hawkers and missionaries. “Alengarth’s ruling council consisted of the high priests of as many Elders as it had cults. Its temple district spanned half the city and worship could be found at all hours,” She narrated, a fond smile tugging at Her lips. “The Harbingers of the Close. The Jackals of the Silver Chalice. The Grasping Fist of Starless Nights…”

Golden light pulsed from the depths of the mural, warm and crisp like summer sunlight. Its emergence momentarily staved off story’s continuance, leaving Incarnate Memory to gather Her breath and dwell upon lost glories known only to Her. “Foremost for ages of Alengarth’s history, stood one cult: the Brightswords,” Lexadhra finally murmured when She opted to continue.

“The Brightswords of Elder Valour,” She elaborated as She gestured towards one of the temples evident within the moving mural. As if bid to open by Her gesture, the temple’s double doors flew open to reveal a tremendous hall more similar to a martial academy than any holy place. “A storied cult that behaved as if they were a military company, their general the Elder God of Valour. They were renowned for bravery in battle, facing down twice their number without a care in the world so long as they all witnessed the courage inherent in such an act. For countless ages did they stand as thorns in the side of many opposing priesthoods: Darkness, Strife, Chaos, Love… one and all did they find themselves at the end of flaming golden blades, castigated by the burning gaze of priests and cadre mages.

Lexadhra turned Her back to the crowd and gestured wide with both hands as if She were peeling back a curtain. Light flared from the mural, dragging the scenery to disparate locales steeped in blood and carnage: the steppes before Helecrucia, the plains that unfurled outside great Glandor, the sea of Silver Swords – these names came to Her mortal witnesses as if epiphanic recollection, each place the site of a gruesome battle in a world never known. Here, Lexadhra heaved a heavy sigh. The expression stirred the gelid mists of Her domain, smearing fog across the mural – fog that swiftly dissipates in the face of golden-hued clarity. “The Brightswords survived until the very end of Azhoa, when the Worldeater plucked it up into His jaws and fled His eternal foe – a feat unto itself, for faith was a strange thing in that world. Orders and priesthoods were not so monolithic there, after all – not like here,” Immortal Memory explained.

“On the eve of their return to Alengarth, after striking down yet another upstart cult dedicated to Elder Darkness, they arrived to find the city besieged by otherworldly forces,” continued the Goddess. Aghast visages took up their place upon the mural then, shock and horror warring in their once-stoic expressions. Countless soldiers sworn to a brave Elder looked upon the distant ruin of a home under assault, its walls gnawed through by the terrifying dissolution of Oblivion Itself. “Unwilling to let the people fend for themselves, the Brightswords did what had always been espoused by their God,” She drawled, the predictability evidently driving Her to spare a wry grin for the thrilling theatrics of a world fallen and dispersed to naught.

“They challenged insurmountable odds to prove their bravery,” Lexadhra laughed. The once shocked soldiers mustered together into two groups as if by Her own command – one marched forward to wade into gory battle with horrors only ever glimpsed within Incarnate Memory’s misty domain, even as the other gathered together into a ritual circle. One by one, the mages extinguish their own lives, their final breaths expelled as aurulent fog that settled upon the ruined city as a protective enchantment.

“The mages gave their lives to buy time for their fellows to charge through the fray…”

More commanders and armoured warriors broke away within the quicksilver mural, one by one diminishing the numbers of the brave Brightswords. Each issued a solitary challenge that drew the ire of countless void elementals and eldritch abominations, allowing their comrades to charge through into the city amidst a trail of blood and tattered flesh.

“Regardless of religion, of cult, of Elder, of belief, they saved as many lives as they could…”

A long shadow loomed across the mural at that moment, snuffing out the imagery and quelling quicksilver’s ceaseless depiction of abominable horror.

“… but of course,” Lexadhra reminded Her enraptured audience, “It mattered not. They all died. All cities fell. Nations, peoples, religions, the very Gods of the world. All were dust upon the silvered tongue of the Worldeater.”

Golden light breached the mural, bathing the audience of Enorian’s faithful in the warmth of courage and fiery devotion. It seeped into their flesh, suffusing them with the grace of an Elder never glimpsed nor met. The longer they stood in the glorious presence of this unknown light, the more understanding began to blossom amongst them – what they saw mere moments ago looked easy enough to replicate.

For three weeks following this moment, the Hammer of Dawn rallied together and laid siege to the grim enchantment holding the dead places of memory and interment, their imperial and savage allies banding together to ward off the North as the Dawn’s faithful cleansed each graveyard with singleminded fervour. When the dust settled and the final, bloody dawn touched the land, the Hammer stood triumphant, their militant faith resulting in a fundamental renaissance of understanding for prayer and worship – an understanding that sharpened the anointed blade of Divine retribution.

Penned by my hand on Falsday, the 23rd of Slyphian, in the year 3 AC.