The story of Tagran

[Back to the Tales of the Third Age]

There are those who say that power corrupts, that it is a wicked servant which only waits for your call to ensnare you forever. Such people never felt the thrill of might, they have never beheld thousands of imploring faces turned toward them. I know this. I am might. I go by the name of Tagran. And I am power.

Chapter I

In the endless depths of Frandum, down into the lowest levels of Hell, an event among the strangest was taking place. Scores of demons had gathered, crushing one another for a vantage place. Chiefs of the strongest evil communities had been summoned and were seated in the front rows, shaking despite their rank. And before them all, a robed figure stood, mumbling words of power, waving its arms in the purest and strongest form of Black Magic the world had known in that Age. For Drago, Hand of Darkness, was at work.

Among all the followers of Shezael who had assembled in the depths none had ever seen the Firelord's face, and few of the surface dwellers had met their new master. Yet no thought of rebellion was possible before the sheer presence of the Hand of Darkness. Because he was creating life.

Such a thought would have been regarded as pure folly by any scholar of Frandum, the very essence of life coming from the gods alone, yet the flows of dark matter the Firelord was wielding were clearly shaping themselves into a human figure.

A murmur of fear and excitement ran through the crowd: they were beholding a miracle.

Suddenly a large cloud covered the scene, and the shadow spawns could barely see their neighbour. Within a few minutes though, it began to recede, while an inhuman roar blasted out of the darkness. A wave of sheer panic submerged the pit, and the weakest demons tried to run away, only to be fried by a rain of fire. None could leave without Drago's allowance...

The vast pits of Hell never again beheld an event such as this one, when Tagran, Harbinger of Destruction, was created. The demons brave enough to linger during the whole ceremony would never again feel such power as when the roar faded and the cloud dissipated. The humanoid that could be seen only a few moments ago changed into a hideous form: Horned, muscular and smeared in blood, as powerful as the turbulent sea, as mighty as the storming winds that carry dragons and eagles across the skies with their untamed wrath. All demons knelt in awe before what was created in that moment, what marked the birth of an evil era, knowing that this creation was to become their future commander.

Tagran stood still in front of the gathered legions, no movement to be seen by mortal eyes, and his mind slowly became aware of his existence. In a dark and terrifying growl he announced the completion of his being and raised his arms to the canopy.

A huge devil he was, with tense muscles covering his entire bloody body. A long pointed horn added an eerie appearance to his forehead, and below it, deep red eyes glowed with an aura terrible even for the demons of Hell to behold. A short tail dangled beside him, ever moving, like a snake ready to coil and strike any threat to its territory. His jaws gnashed with an ugly noise, and from time to time faint hissing sounds could be heard coming through the sharp spears of death that were his teeth, whispers of destruction of the world, and extinction of the good and weak.

Drago spoke: "Demons and other darklings: greet my servant, your commander" and he slowly turned towards his creation and demanded in a harsh voice: "Stand up, Tagran, Harbinger of Destruction!" and those words echoed in the minds of the demons, filling them with fear and respect for the creature standing by their Master.
There was another blast, as if of a great explosion, and the Firelord and Tagran disappeared before the eyes of the gathering. In private, the two evils began making plans.
Drago spoke to Tagran: "I have a mission for you, my faithful servant: you will first build me a castle, and then an army. Then you will conquer this world in the name of our Queen! You will first create, to better destroy!"

Chapter II

Tagran didn't think of questioning the law of his Master for one second, but immediately answered to his master's delight: "Yesss... My work shall be your profit, Master. A castle I shall build, yet alone I can't perform this task. O Master, spare me a host of demons, and your orders will go by as you had intended..." With a satisfied grin, though unseen, Drago answered "I shall indeed grant your request, my servant. Take whatever demons you need, no amount is too great for this task. Make me proud, and do not disappoint me!" and the grin turned into a rough sneer, which would have filled even the great Tagran with dread, had he seen the face of his Master. Tagran bowed low and went away to gather helpers among the hordes of demons.

Thus commenced the work given by the Firelord, and for twenty long years did the mightiest demons of hell, under the guidance of Tagran, build the castle of Drago.
Drago was pleased with the work of his servants, and he set up his headquarters in the castle, and resides there even to this day. On the first day of the castle's completion, he summoned Tagran into the throne-room, and spoke to him about future deeds: "Tagran, my most loyal servant... You have served me well in your first task of the two I gave you". Tagran bowed slowly before Drago continued: "The second one, however, is harder and by no means less important. Build me an army worthy of these domains over which I am Master, and again; Do not disappoint me!" Tagran answered his lord with a nod, before turning around and walking out to raise armies of darkness.

Hell was indeed filled with the most dreadful beings, and Tagran marvelled at the thought of being their commander. Yet these were far from enough, as Drago's demands were far from achievable by the crafts they possessed; he needed more of them. After breeding legion after legion of furious demons of purest evil, Tagran went again to his master Drago to discuss his progress. Drago said to Tagran "My servant, you have worked hard for me, but you are still far from your goal. Fear not, though, as I will help you in your task. In my dungeons are now many elves of the light, humans and dwarves both in Reset’s and in Galanhir’s, his name be cursed, service. They are yours to do treat however you wish. Pervert their minds, teach your demons to long for battle by letting them shed their blood, or simply let them rot in front of you, for inspiration." Tagran gave an evil grin before leaving his master to attend to his duties.

Indeed the dungeons were filled with good elves, but their minds were soon to be fit for the hell they had been taken into, as Tagran converted them in his terrible chambers of torture, making them fear him, and turned their minds black and hateful by telling lies of Galanhir and his followers. These elves came to fear the light and goodness of Galanhir, which they had loved before, and were called "dark elves", and some say that these elves were what would later be called drow. Good fighters they were, both with bows and swords. With these in his army, Tagran finally had the power to please Drago, and was again summoned to meet with his master.

"Tagran, your work did serve me well, and your first target among the peoples of Frandum shall be one of your own choice." Tagran knelt before Drago, and spoke: "Drago, my Master... My choice lies in the skies, and the destruction of the Winged people. Their light and closeness to the Suns have long been pestering me, and their mere presence in this world is a threat to all that is dark! Let me destroy them, let me crush their weak innocence in one great blow dealt by the hordes You have let me raise!" Drago was pleased, and as his evil laughter rang out into the very depths of Hell, so did the doom of the Winged people ring out, as Drago granted Tagran his wish.

Tagran left the halls of Drago and summoned the hordes before the castle. "Legions... Today you shall prove that your traning has not been in vain. We shall leave the Pits of Hell and fly into the skies, and spill the blood of the cursed race of the Winged men!" he spoke to them. Before he was allowed to continue, the inhuman screams that answered his words suddenly stopped. Drago was standing behind him. Tagran knelt before his master. "Legions of Hell, creatures of the dark: Your fate lies before you! Tagran will be your general and lead you into the skies to crush our foes. The winged demons among you will be the first to enter their realm, and you wingless will either be carried up or remain on the ground in order to take care of the ones that may flee, for even if they carry wings, they can't stay flying forever. You move at dusk and attack when you are all gathered", Drago began. He made a short pause before turning to Tagran and spoke: "General Tagran... Recieve this gift from me" and softly waved his arm, making a burning scythe appear before Tagran. "This shall be the key to your success, Harbinger of Destruction... It was forged by myself and our Dark Queen Shezael to enhance your unholy powers, and aid you in your quest." Drago made the scythe levitate, until it reached the height of his hand, and then grabbed it. "I call it Tarkamish - The Scythe of Doom, for it will indeed be the doom of your enemies. It has been crafted by the venom of Shezael's cobra, and forged by the bones of many good beings, and covered with the skins of them as well." Of the scythe that had burnt bright and clear, only the blade was now burning ghastly in front of the black walls of the castle they stood by. It glowed with a dark aura, and looked almost as evil and destructive as the Firelord himself. Tagran knelt to accept the gift, and as Drago gave the scythe to him, his horn started glowing intensly for a short moment, before going dark again as it had been. Drago made sign for Tagran to rise, and as he so did, he felt the sensation of the massive power this dreadful weapon held. His eyes flickered with madness, and an unquenchable desire for chaos and carnage filled all who looked upon him in that moment, and those that saw him never dared to question his orders.

Chapter III

Far away from Hell, beyond the surface of the earth, high into the skies, peace was all around. Flowers bloomed as always during this time of Earthseason, and the birds sang sweet in the silent trees, only disturbed by a tender flicker in the leaves where the wind so gently played. No one feared that the evils would dare to rise to disturb this peace.

"Don't go too far, father said!" a raised voice was calling out to someone. "Why can't we go this far? What could happen?" another voice answered in return. Far up in the sky, two children were playing. On their backs were tied wings of a shining fabric, and the wind was in their hair. "Scein! I'm gonna tell on you if you don't come back now! Father will get angry!" the first voice spoke. "Well, ok... I guess we aren't allowed to have fun." Scein sniffed the air. It was cool, yet something strange was in it. "Rein? Did you smell the air down here? I don't know what the groundlings are up to, but it sure doesn't smell nice..." Scein was far below his brother. Even further below, a tree fell slowly into decay, emitting a foul smell that had reached even the nose of Rein now. "Hmm, you are right brother. Something is going on." A wail was heard, it was shrill and chilling, and stroke fear deep into the bones of the two winged boys. "What was that? Scein? Where are you?" Another scream was heard, but this time less shrill and more tormented. It filled Rein with dread, for now he was certain that something strange was going on. Scein was nowhere to be seen now. "Scein?" the younger brother cried out, but was only answered by the sight of migthy creatures flying fast against him. Bloody they were, as if they came out of a battlefield. Rein cried in despair and fled up into the sky, back to his city, the city of the Winged men. Lucky as he was, the creatures didn't reach him in time, and he went right to his father's office in the house of Myhrwald, whom the winged men worshipped as a god. He cried out his message to his father, who was one of the Seven wise men; the well respected Sages in these lands, and his father rose from his chair, hurrying out to sound the alarm. Evil had risen, and it seemed that it rose to smite the Winged men before any other people. People gathered on the streets, wanting to know what was going on. Never before in this age had the alarm been sounded.

They all despaired when they saw what was on their land: The sky was black all around them, and it was mid-day. Wails could be heard coming from behind the now barred gate in the western part of the city. Children cried, for though they knew not what evil had risen, the very presence of it was enough to put fear in the hearts of even the most valiant men, and no help was to be given to the people of Myhrwald. Down on the ground had now gathered legions of mighty evils, and even more were flying above, seeking the Airy land of Myhrwald. The ground was burnt and decayed, and the people that saw the land in this state were certain that never again would their land go green again.

In the land of the Winged men, now Myhrwald spoke in secret to two of his fastest messengers: "You need to leave this land and go for help, before it's too late, and our fate sealed forever. Your success may be the action that will keep our lands alive, but your failure would indeed mean the death of our civilization." His two messengers left him swiftly, no questions asked. They headed for the eastern part of town, where no demons had yet been seen. Once they reached the great wall before the border, they threw themselves over it. No other winged men were able to fly there, for the winds were untamed at that part of the Airy Land. Below, they saw the hordes of evil gathered on the ground, and demons flying into their beloved land. The messengers flew with great speed to the city of Sanctuary, only founded ten years from then, but already quite strong in its defenses, and its soldiers were well taught in the art of battling.

They arrived at the castle of Sanctuary that same evening, where Begethine, Lord of Sanctuary resided.

Outside the gate of the Airy land, the hosts of Hell had now gathered, and were ready to attack. Nearly a night and a day had passed since they left the darkness of Hell. Tagran was there, being sent by the powers of Drago, for he had no wings, and wasn't able to fly as his minions were. Silence reigned, but it was only the last calm before the storm, the onslaught: The extinction of the Winged Men of Myhrwald. A scythe was raised towards the darkness in the sky, and the commanding voice of Tagran sent his mighty demons to break the gates of the city. The process of damnation had begun...

Repeated pounding. A power beyond comprehension was beating at the gates. But they would not yield, not yet. Fear crept up the spines of even the most valiant Winged men, the ones gathered in the streets of their city. The sobbing of children could not be heard, but people were indeed crying. The women had gone away, carrying their children into the temple, the one place where they might be saved from the wrath of Hell that had been unleashed upon them. Armored soldiers, armed with shining swords, their wings put on and sharp spears in their hands were all around, but many were not trained to withstand such an onslaught as this. They knew it, and despaired. The tears whetted their cheeks and blurred their sight. The pounding continued, and the gates would soon yield. Silence crept over the men of the Airy land, and they tried to put their fear aside for a short moment before their deaths. A loud crash was heard and the air was filled with black fumes, not even penetrated by the torches set outside every house. The fumes prevented all sight of the Winged men, and they could not see what was come upon them, and how strong the hosts of Hell were. The gate had yielded, and demons stormed the city, powerful and without mercy. Screams filled the cold Earthseason noon, and the clash of sword on shield could be heard as the battle raged on. Demons poured in and slaughtered everyone in their way, destroying houses and men alike. A few brave and skilled soldiers remained a long time under the leadership of Myhrwald, the one they worshipped. The men were by far outnumbered, but still they hadn't unleashed the wrath of their Sages, the men of Power beside Myhrwald. They were known in the city as sorcerers of great power, though none had ever seen it displayed.

A whole evening and night went by, and the soldiers of Myhrwald drew back into the temple, which had not yet been approached by the foul demons of Hell. There they could have some needed rest and prepare for the upcoming night's battles. Myhrwald spoke to his soldiers, urging them to keep their faith and not yield. "We still have hope", he said "and hope you must never give up! Not long now will I wait before I send The Seven to clear the skies of this accursed darkness, and once again fill it with light to destroy our enemies. It will be hard, but I won't let our land fall! Not now, not ever!" The men that were still in a state to continue fighting rose and drew their swords, ready to meet their deaths, or their deliverance. They all were silent, and seven elder men appeared in front of them, each wielding a staff of white wood. Their eyes met the ones of Myhrwald, and they turned to the gates of the temple, which opened before them. The demons could not be sighted outside the temple, but far away in the darkness, eyes were glowing, watching the temple gates intensely. The Sages raised their staves, and harsh words streamed out of their mouths, slowly lifting the darkness outside.

Now the demons in their turn were filled with despair, and they screamed in rage and fear, and retreated to outside the city gates, where Tagran still was. "Lord, the darkness is fading!" they hissed, trembling with fear both of the light and of Tagran. Wielding Tarkamish, he alone entered the gates of the city and headed for the temple, and with one great spell he shut the temple gates before the Sages, interrupting their spell. He struggled with their minds, but they were too strong. Behind him, demons slowly started to appear again, thinking that their commander would soon darken the air again. The doors slammed open, and Tagran fell backwards with a mighty roar. He didn't lie on the ground for long, but rose in rage, and with a scream ran towards the Sages, wielding his scythe. Men ran out of the temple, and their silver blades smote the bone handle of the mighty Tarkamish, which in return severed two men's heads with its first blow. More people came out to battle Tagran, understanding that he was the leader of the demons. The demons met up with them, and entered the light they earlier had feared, for they feared Tagran more, and what he could do to them, had they stayed out of the battle. The light, however, wasn't hurting them, and their spirits were now high with Tagran by their side. Tagran waved his scythe, and blood gushed out of his enemies, who all trembled before his wrath, and the demons pressed them back into the temple. Tagran followed them to destroy the Winged Men once and for all, and he called for the rest of his host to join the battle.

From inside the temple, bolts of lighting and balls of fire were hurled towards the demons and their commander, and the ones wielding such means were the Seven Sages and Myhrwald himself. Tagran, being unhurt by their spells, laughed long and grimly as he hewed even more heads off the trembling men before him.

Soon they all were dead, except for the Seven Sages and Myhrwald on the men's side, and two dozens demons and Tagran on the evils' side. Demons were still outside the city gates, and had not joined the fray. Surrounded by their enemies, the winged men would have yielded if Myhrwald had not stepped forward to challenge Tagran in one-on-one combat. "Foul demon, spawn of chaos, grant me this wish of a duel that I, Myhrwald, propose you, for my lands are destroyed, and my people slaughtered before my own eyes, with you as their killer! Dare not back out of this, devil, or I shall forever haunt your mind and curse what you call holy!" Softly the mighty Demon of Hell laughed, as he answered Myhrwald's proposition: "Holy? Fool, to me nothing is holy, and nothing can ever be! No matter how pathetic your threats did sound, I will grant your wish and make you suffer as no man, flying or stuck to the ground, ever did before you!" The demons backed away, and so did the Sages, and the gates were closed to prevent any demons from the outside to interrupt the upcoming battle.

Myhrwald drew his sword and raised his shield, his eyes ever fixed on the demon's face, nearly twice the height above ground as his. Tagran grinned and let his scythe cleave the air with grace. The Sages held their breath as Myhrwald charged the demon with his silver blade and a scream. Tagran's scythe suddenly sprang up in return, sending sparks throughout the temple, and that first clash of their weapons were heard all over the world, and down into the pits of Hell, from where Drago was watching with delight. Mighty blows Tagran sent, but ever did he miss his swift target, and was smote twice in his right leg, and screamed out in pain. He had another weapon, though, a weapon that had not yet been discovered by Myhrwald, whose fast reflexes saved him from being impaled by the long, sharp tail of the demon. His shield was notched by the immense power of the blow, and surprised by this, Myhrwald took a step backwards as Tagran charged on in full force, Tarkamish gleaming in the darkness. Myhrwald's blade broke as he desperately tried to defend himself, and he was cast against the wall behind him. The Seven Sages fell to the ground, as did cascades of blood from the chest of Myhrwald. The sharp-pointed tail of Tagran had pierced his armour, and he was pinned to the wall, gasping for air. The wicked smile on Tagran's lips was wide and evil, for he knew that he had won the battle. Myhrwald sank to the ground, still breathing heavily. "Please, I beg you... Take my life, but spare the others. And also, tell me who you are, for never have I known such power..." Tagran answered calmly: "I will grant your wishes as well as I can. I will indeed tell you who I am. I am Tagran, Harbinger of Destruction, who has risen from Hell to erase life and joy wherever it dwells. I serve the Firelord and The Dark Queen. Now for your other wish... I will take your life, and though I would have liked it to be more painful, I won't make you suffer too much. The third one, however, I can't grant you. My hunger for tortured screams is not yet sated, and it grew even greater with the shedding of your blood." An evil laugh sounded through the temple, and Tarkamish hewed the head of Myhrwald in one single stroke, and the Great Demon ripped the wings of him with his hands before turning to the Sages, who were now raising their arms and dropping their staves, weeping before their dead Lord. Tagran laughed again, saying "You wish to make it even easier for me? I was looking forward to your struggling, but I guess I will have to live without it" and with a few swift strokes sent them all to their deaths.

Tagran now knew that he had won the battle, but something was stirring his mind, making him doubt his accomplishment. He told the demons to be on their guard as he went towards the exit of the temple, clasping Tarkamish with both hands. He pushed the gates, making them open before him, and went out. Silence prevailed in the streets. His eyes pierced the darkness, but could see no sign of life neither of men, nor of demons. He walked towards the city gates, the surviving demons from the temple following him. The gates had been broken when the city was first stormed, and through it nothing could be seen, not a single trace of the demons that didn't enter the temple. He knelt and spoke slowly, his mind connected with Drago's in Hell: "What is this, Lord? Where is my army, and what does this mean?" Drago's voice filled his head with fear as it spoke: "Tagran, your task is nearly finished, but still there is more to be done. Two of the Winged Men escaped, and sent for help. Our legions on the ground are in this moment battling the fierce warriors of Sanctuary, commanded by Begethine, Lord of the city. Fly, Tagran... Fly and destroy their feeble goodness!" Tagran slowly lifted from the ground before the eyes of the last demons, who had wings on their own to fly with, and he flew down to the ground, where battle was raging between men wielding swords of steel, and the scattered remnants of the hellish army of demons and dark elves.

When Tagran arrived, Begethine's army was destroying the hosts of Hell with terrible power. Fire was in their eyes, and strength in their arms. Clad in steel they were, and fierce warriors of high skill. With a mighty crash, he landed on the ground and severed the limbs of many a good warrior before he finally stood eye-to-eye with Begethine himself. Hissing, he uttered hateful words in Begethine's direction: "Shhh... Feeble humans! How dare you stand in the way of Drago, the Hand of Darkness, and his minions?! Whatever purposes you had will fade once I show you the power of the Underworld. Have at you, weak Lamb of Galanhir!" Tarkamish was raised once more, but this was all that could be done, for Begethine knelt and prayed to his Lord, Galanhir, and Tagran was unable to move, as was everyone else, except Begethine. He rose and walked towards Tagran, speaking with Drago through the mind of the mighty devil: "Firelord... How dare you fill this realm with darkness and hate and death? Your feeble attempts will be swallowed by the Lord, and the chaos and destruction you bring into the world will be mended as soon as your cursed minions depart from the face of the earth!" A cold voice answered him: "You are a fool to question me, mortal! Your attempt was a courageous one, but that makes it no less stupid. I will destroy you and your weak city, as I will destroy every little thing and creature created by your God of the Dying Light. Now die!" Tagran started to move, but no one else did move. Except for Begethine, who now had drawn his blazing sword and was waiting for the battle to continue. With all his power, Tagran swinged his scythe, but Begethine was stronger than Myhrwald, and faster, so he could escape the wrath of the demon. Being a priest, Begethine decided to let the battle be left unfought, and he left Tagran alone and released all the soldiers from their unmoving state. The men of Sanctuary fled the battlefield when they saw Begethine retreating, and as they did, the ground shook with terrible might and was suddenly opened. Through it could be seen the vast Pits of Hell. Tagran and most of his army cast themselves into it, disappearing from the face of the earth. The ones who didn’t enter it were few of the dark elves, who rather stayed on the ground, seeking to build their own civilizations and armies of darkness. But the damage they had done remained, and never fully healed in this age.

Begethine left, in deep thought, these now barren lands and headed back to his castle, where were waiting the two messengers sent by Myhrwald now nearly three days ago. Begethine explained what had happened, and that their civilization was forever gone. Weeping, the last two Winged men fell to the ground and died in grief over all that was lost. Thus ended the history of the Airy Land, a once proud civilization, but now burnt to no more than ashes of its former greatness. And so did the world weep, for this deed was only the first in a line of many to come, where innocent people would be slaughtered in multitudes.

Once back in Hell, Tagran and the survivors of his army that decided to return there, were summoned before the castle once more. Drago was there, clad, as always when speaking to his minions, in a black hooded robe. Before their horrified eyes, he spoke to them: "Never did the world suffer as it did under these past days. Our rise could not have gone any better than it did, and our quest to conquer the world with hate will go on as I have intended. Rest a while, but do not fall out of your duties!” he said before turning to Tagran, asking him to see him in his throne-room when it suited him. He then disappeared, leaving the crowd and Tagran in deep thought of what his future plans would be.

Tagran entered the castle of Drago before long, and Drago once again commanded him to raise demons to fight the world, "for never” he said, "can we rest, until the hordes of Galanhir have faded and darkness reigns supreme.” No more was said about the upcoming deeds at this moment, and Tagran went away, continuing his work with his armies, a work that would not cease until the end of his life.

Chapter IV

The years passed in silence, no evil ascended in any attempt to destroy goodness openly for quite some years. The dark elves multiplied quite fast in the beginning, and mainly their activity was held in the west, whereas orcs held the eastern parts of the world in fear. Long had orcs been in the world, but without a powerful leader their actions were few. Now they had heard rumours of Drago and the destruction of the Airy land. Drago had given them signs to plunder, attack small villages and harass the weaker peoples of Frandum. They were successful from time to time, but were seldom allowed to dwell for long in the same place, being ever hunted by the courageous knights of Galanhir.

However, Drago was not idle, but made plans to destroy the most powerful good dwellings in the world, and had found a new weapon to use: The undead. He raised many such creatures; ghouls, skeletons, wraiths, unholy spirits unable to find their final rest, being cursed to undeath by the power of Drago’s divine blood. He found a man of Aendhol, a city legendary for its defences, and being nestled on top of high mountains, inaccessible for an army like the one he had used in the destruction of the Airy land, he decided to attack it from the inside. This man that he found was no other than Mohadek, who later was to be called the Lord of the Dead. Mohadek poisoned the whole city of Aendhol, turning its citizens into mindless undead, serving Drago in his wars against goodness. Mohadek was given inhuman powers, and Tagran envied this man, now become a demon of the same great stature as the Harbinger of Destruction himself. Tagran needed to do something before Drago would lose faith in him. His mind turned towards the city of Sanctuary, which he more than any other place would like to destroy, and he started planning its destruction. Inspired by Drago’s work with Aendhol, now called Shenar Enhoth, he sought to corrupt a man of Sanctuary, but would soon find that the men of this great city were not easily brought into darkness. With deep regret, he abandoned these thoughts, and instead turned his evil eyes on the neutral followers of Reset, God of Balance: He would destroy goodness by ruining its allies. He had not yet decided his target, but it would not be long before he understood the power of one great artifact of Sentinel’s: The Scales of Balance, constructed to keep order and equilibrium stable in Frandum. In the hands of an evil mind such as Tagran’s, or why not the Firelord’s, could indeed be what the evils needed to settle this battle once and for all. But he remained quiet, and didn’t speak to Drago about this. But Drago knew it. He knew it from the beginning...

Tagran ascended the Pits of Hell, and went to find people to aid him in his quest, for no demon he could trust to keep it secret, knowing that their minds were too weak to withstand Drago’s gaze. He traveled into the west, seeking the dark elves and their commander. Through day and night, light and darkness, he traveled alone save the company of Tarkamish, the only servant he trusted. He found them finally, nearly a year after he left Hell, where Drago, despite Tagran’s disobedience, awaited his arrival to the city of the drow. The drow had grown independent in their years of exile, and Tagran was treated with no more respect than an orcish captain would have been, as they didn’t trust to Drago to neither defend them, nor destroy the light they so deeply feared. Angered by this, Tagran spoke aloud to the gatewardens, both wielding terrible black long swords, sharp and deadly to any man in their way: "I find your lack of faith in our Lord distasteful! Your weak race would be no more than one of life-loving cowards, bound to serve the good Lord and his accursed light!” Drago, watching from his black throne, was pleased with Tagran’s words, but desired to try the demon’s own faith, and took in possession the gate warden before Tagran: "Have you no business but to spread false tales of this Firelord, I suggest you leave our lands before Anghez, our commander, gives a sign for us to slay you here and now!” Tagran ’s mind struggled with his body: His wish was to slay this unfaithful dog and all of his kin, but his mind spoke against this, knowing that it would lead to the destruction of his own creation. Restrained by this thought, he hissed in answer: "Bastard traitor, when did my creations forsake the Firelord to instead be ruled by their own feeble minds? You have no own will, your trust should be with Him!” "No trust we give him, or you, his beloved servant! We worship the Queen, and no one else. Where was this Hand of Darkness when we left the fields beneath the Land in the sky? Where is he now, this Lord of yours? We did not forsake him, he forsook us!” Tagran could no longer restrain himself. His mind set to take control over this dwelling, he rushed at the gate wardens and slew them with two swift strokes of Tarkamish. Drago laughed, pleased. The gates slowly opened before the mighty demon. No alarm had been sounded. He hasted into the city, searching for this Anghez that the gate warden mentioned.

The city was delved in a great mountain close to a forest, its "houses” being no more than caves on the sides of the great road from the gates up to the largest of these, the one of Anghez, located nearly a league from the gates. Halfway there, the road split up both to the left and the right, but kept its broadest branch leading straight up to Anghez cave. The dark elves were everywhere in the streets, and they all gazed at Tagran as he wandered amongst them, his scythe still in his hands, dripping fresh blood on the ground.

Coming at last to the gate of Anghez’ abode, Tagran stared hatefully at the guard by the door. The guard went aside, kneeling before Tagran, and addressing him as a Lord he spoke: "The abode of Anghez is not to be tread by outlanders. But I can’t deny you entrance, for you are the one to whom we owe our glory and pride. Enter...” Tagran smiled, knowing that the dark elf he was towering above was not like the gate wardens who lost their lives earlier. He entered into a large hall, carved in stone as the whole city was. No light was inside, but his eyes needed it not. Two stairs there were, both leading up. No sign of life could he see, but he felt something present. Before long, he would know what it was: He fell to the ground, his shriek echoing in the hall, as he felt his back being pierced by a spear. He looked up, and saw a creature much like the dark elves he had created, yet not fully visible. He knew not in this moment whether this drow was Anghez, or one of his guards. Struggling, he stood up again, leaning on Tarkamish. The blurry shape of the drow became clearer, its spear’s point turned towards the demon’s face, and Tagran heard the dark elf speak: "Greetings, my creator. State your business, lest I let Darlagh pierce your skin once more, no less cruelly than the first time!” Silence followed, it seemed an eternity. Tagran had never before been defeated in this way. He spoke softly, as if in awe of what was standing before him: "I have come to seek the aid of what once was my dearest creation. Be you the one whom the gate wardens, their souls be cursed, spoke of and named Anghez?” The dark elf withdrew his spear from the face of Tagran, and leaning on it as if it were a staff, he answered: "That I am. And you, Tagran, should have paid more respect to the art of secrecy, and not have gone through my gates as a slayer of my kin. I will not make you apologize, though: I owe you my life, and whatever your business be, I will aid you in the best way I can.” He knelt, and as he so did, Tagran rose to his full height, his long horn nearly touching the ceiling. He was still silent, sizing up his backstabber. Impressed he was, the blow was dealt unheard and unexpected. He was still bleeding badly, but this didn’t bother him. The wound was not deadly, for such knowledge of the demon’s anatomy had Anghez, that he did not risk a lethal blow.
"I have come for your aid in one task beyond my powers alone, mighty Anghez. Will you hear my proposition, or shall I leave your halls as I came, though in shame?”
"Speak, Lord", answered Anghez, rising and slowly walking towards a big seat set in the far end of the room between the two staircases. "I won’t let you leave unheard.” Tagran watched him walk to his throne, taking a seat, but still holding the spear Darlagh. The demon followed, and placed himself standing ten feet away from the throne. "I came in peace, for never did I desire to hurt those serving my Master, the Firelord, whom I hear you are no longer sworn to serve. Would you still be interested in aiding his greatest follower, as this one wants to prove himself still worthy of greater things than his master’s new legions led by Mohadek? Hear my story and plan...”

The two of them took counsel together for hours, and Tagran explained the situation with Mohadek and his undead legions, and how he wanted his Master’s favour back. Anghez listened, and eventually they began planning the reaping of the Scales of Balance from the crystal castle of Sentinel. Their resources were not those of Hell, and they knew that the ability of Anghez to become unseen would be the key to this deed.

Two days later, the two evil lords left the caves of the drow, and went away, alone, to assail the castle of Sentinel, and steal the scales so dear to him. The road was long, but they were allowed to walk out in the open, though only at night, as Anghez claimed that walking in sunlight would drain his powers to be removed from sight.

After seven nights of walking, they finally reached the mountains surrounding Sentinel’s residence. From here they saw the castle, although it was not easily spotted in the night, even with the eyes of a dark elf. There they summoned a darkness impenetrable by the eyes of Sentinel, protecting them from the rays of the seven suns when they should rise.
" We do as planned” Anghez said, “I sneak in, and you wait for my signal to approach the gates” Tagran nodded slowly, doubting the plan now that he saw the greatness of the castle. Guards were everywhere: by the gates, on the wall, in the towers and even roaming the parts of the mountains closest to the castle.

From afar, Drago was watching. He had been watching all the way from the drow’s city and cleared their path of threats unseen. A spell he set on Tagran, transforming his body into an exact copy of Anghez, and giving him the same powers as the dark elf. Tagran knew that Drago was pleased with his actions, and his spirits rose as he felt once again his master’s confidence. Anghez grabbed his spear, and asked Tagran to come with him. Tagran followed, and he grabbed Tarkamish, still being the mighty scythe it always was, however diminished to fit the size of his new shape. They disappeared from sight, and with dexterity known only to elves; they sneaked into the castle through the main gates on the northern side, unseen by the eyes of the guards. Luck, or fate, was on their side, for the portcullis was open and none took notice of them entering.
Night it was, but the guards were no less focused on their work. They served Reset under the guidance of Sentinel, the most powerful servant of the God of Balance. Never before had his castle been entered by evil creatures, and very few servants of Galanhir ever entered it.

They left the entrance and went deeper into the castle. A great hall was awaiting them, its walls and ceiling cut out of pure crystal, through which could be seen the night skies and mountains they left not long ago. A large crystal pillar was centered in the hall, and one mirror in each corner of the room seemed to glow slightly, lighting it up.
They pressed on; dazzled by this great piece of crystal they had entered, its purity frightening them. But guided by the evil will of Drago they did not stray from their quest.

A long corridor led them to the bottom of a staircase, which they ascended soon enough to see two guards in front of a huge door. The evils looked at each other, for though their shapes were hidden from the guards, they could still see each other. They both knew that they had found Sentinel’s room. Their next job now was to get rid of the guards, a task that a swift stab and a powerful swing of a spear and a scythe handled just perfect. They approached the door, and as they did, it slowly creaked open. Drago was at work once more and their path cleared. There was one thing he had not taken in account, though, for behind them came the battle cry of the castle’s master, back from a meeting with Darimer, the Baron of Kalinth, with whom he had discussed the fall of Aendhol and which actions would be taken to either retake it or defend themselves from it. His eyes pierced their disguise, and Tahanar, his blade, came flying down on Tarkamish, wielded by the now visible Tagran who was back into his demon shape once more. Anghez, his invisibility not yet dispelled (though seen by Sentinel), for he had not engaged in combat yet, snuck into the room of Sentinel and made haste to bring out the Scales of Balance. The battle had now drawn the attention of the guards, who were now running up the stairs to aid their master. Anghez shouted to Tagran: “Flee! He alone may not be beyond your skill, but he is not alone!” Tahanar cut the arm of Anghez, who in a scream dropped the scales on the floor. With one hand he wielded Darlagh, and pierced the throats of two guards rushing at him. Tagran hewed the heads of another three guards, and then started retreating down the stairs. Anghez fell to his knees, for he could not go on this battle in his state. His spear dealt its last stroke, and another guard fell, before he with his last strength picked up the Scales of Balance and tossed them to Tagran, who catched them upon Tarkamish and fled the stairs with Sentinel’s breath upon his neck. The last cries of Anghez echoed long through the halls, and the guards cruelly spilled his blood. Thus died the captain of the drow, the race that has never since been able to follow a single leader, but been independent individuals, not suited for battling in armies. Tagran fled the castle, the guards not hindering him but Sentinel ever chasing him. Fast he ran, and finally his feet lifted from the ground and he flew over the mountains with the scales in his hands, and the power of Drago carrying him.
“Deep beneath the mountains under which the Fast River flows, I have created an abode for you where you will be safe. Flee there, and train the demons I have sent to be your personal lifeguard. From there you will plan your future deeds and not be dependent of my counsel. You are free, but I am watching you, and you are still the commander of the hosts of Hell.”

There he went, deep into those volcanic mountains, and there would his halls be until the end of his days. There he kept the scales of Sentinel, and there he planned his next evil deeds, breeding demons and fiery snakes and spirits to aid his evil. He would not long be idle. His nature spoke against such things...

Chapter V

On a black throne was seated the most feared of Drago’s minions. There he sat, ever planning evil deeds in his master’s name. There he had now been seated most of the time the last five years, hidden from Sentinel and the outer world. Indeed Drago was the only one outside the caves who knew where Tagran, Harbinger of Destruction, dwelt. However, he did not need to hide. He had built armies enough to defend himself against quite a massive attack; be it from Sentinel or from Aemir. His evil had given him another side lately. Brute force in the sense of using an army, in the like of his destruction of the Airy Land, to annihilate his enemies was not the way of Tagran anymore, but cunning and secrecy were. What thought he had with changing his ways, no one knew. He had been summoned before Drago on a few occasions, and he had met some of the new generals of Hell, but such things did not disturb him anymore. He knew that he was the first commander, and Drago’s finest warrior. Drago had not ordered anyone to perform any major acts of evil during the years of Tagran’s exile, until one day, when he sent Vecna to destroy the civilization of Kayla, and in the same time ordered Tagran to do something about the people called dwarves, for these people were not much disturbed by the great evils earlier worked.

Scattered after the fall of their ancestral home of Kraggen-Kor, the dwarves had settled throughout the world, some of them far in the eastern mountains of the known world, despite the presence of orc tribes, which were the sole troubles the dwarves had in that time. Other dwarven clans had settled on an island in the Dragon Sea, unconcerned with the mainland, save for trading the ore mined from their dwelling on the Thunder Island, or Thunderdelve. Kralon was the name of these dwarves’ king, and he was the one that led them there. The following tale reveals what befell these peaceful miners, and how their civilization was to be destroyed in the name of evil.

As soon as Tagran received the orders from Drago, his eye at once fell upon Thunderdelve. Not only because its inhabitants were many, but also because their trading activity provided the enemies of Hell with good weapons. How to reach the island was now Tagran’s main problem. He could assail them from the north; sending troops to destroy them outright, or even do the same on the southern side, for those two sides were not blocked by the massive mountains in which the dwarves’ mining was done. As has been earlier mentioned, he no longer preferred open battle, but had more liking for secrecy and surprise attacks. He pondered his options, and realized that he could attack the island from below, by entering the mines and destroying them from the inside. During his years in his mountain, his minions had dug tunnels that allowed entrance into most places of the world, even Thunderdelve, and through these he would send their doom, a monster bred in the hot seas of lava deep beneath the face of the earth; a monster called the Frysnaca: as fiery as the Seven Suns, with jaws strong enough to devour mountains, and an evil will, untamed save by Tagran, which was of the exact same nature as its creator’s. This creature answered to none but Tagran himself, and with the coming of Wealsun in Fireseason, in the year of 1640 of the Third Age, this menace was released into those deep-dug tunnels of Tagran’s; its destination set on Thunderdelve.

In the throne-room of a dwarven king a feast was held. For eighty years had now Kralon been king in the halls of Thunderdelve, and this was to be celebrated. No one was working this day, and the mines stood empty. This was the fourth and last day of feasting, and it was becoming late. The suns were westering and the sky displayed an enthralling mixture of colours between the brightest red and deepest blue, and in some places the thin wisps of cloud looked as peaceful as if Hell had never existed.

“It is beautiful. And when I see it, my heart sings. Yet my soul aches deeply. I thrive because of the work of so many of my kin, but what do they get? They don’t even get to see what I behold each night from this balcony; what I behold in this moment. What good is life if you don’t see its beauties, but are stuck to your work and, after all, unimportant duties? Was I wrong to lead us all here, eighty years from now?” Kralon turned to face his wife Gahnia, who was standing behind him rocking a small child in her arms. Looking up she saw the worried and sad face of her husband. She smiled and walked towards him, taking his hand into hers. “How can you say such a thing, my love? If it weren’t for you, where would our people be?
Would their destiny be any brighter where they were, stuck in the eastern mountains with their orcs and cheap ore?” Kralon was silent, now again gazing westwards to the suns’ setting. “I do not know”, he sighed. “I do not know...” He went in, leaving his wife and child out on the balcony. Entering his throne-room, he announced the end of the feast and went to bed.

The following morning work was going on as it usually did in the mines. Kralon was seated on his throne, awaiting the arrival of a few merchants from Sanctuary. The mines were full of activity; dwarves hewing the mountain with their pick axes, filling the wagons with precious ore. Three miners were having a break, and stood chatting close to the big well. The water of the well was murky this morning, and it bubbled forebodingly. The three miners suddenly stopped chatting, and all their eyes turned towards the well. Its water had started to boil, and black fumes were spewing out of it.
They slowly went closer, watching each other’s faces, concerned. Suddenly it burst, and up came red flames and many sharp blades cleaving two of them, while the third was cast towards a wall and passed out. Slowly a snake-like creature crawled up from the well, its massive body breaking the stones around it. The huge flaming eyes were constantly open, ever watching the surroundings for any sign of life. Nearly a hundred feet long, its teeth countless sharp swords and its nostrils full of fire, it was to destroy this mining community before news of its destruction could even reach the mainland. Its whole body was a flaming torch, and the rock it touched melted into lava. Before it came a smell of sulfur, and with it came terror and death; behind itself it left nothing but ashes and burning waste.

In the castle Kralon had just finished negotiating with the Sanctuary merchants, and he was alone in the throne-room. A strange feeling stroke his heart, and he felt like leaving the island, taking everyone with him. He knew not why, but still the feeling was there. He stood up and hurried out to find his wife and child.

Sitting on the balcony, Gahnia held Gwaron, their child, in her arms. She smelled the air in a deep breath, and pondered a strange smell when Kralon suddenly came from behind. She turned around, smiling. “Something is bothering me, Gahnia. Did you smell the air? Did you feel the strange calmness of today?” he said. “I have smelt the air, but I would say it is nothing to worry about. You should get some rest, dear. You do not look well. What’s the matter?” Gahnia asked, standing up. “We must leave. Now. I can’t help this feeling I have, but I know something is wrong.” The dwarven king was sweating. Gahnia looked worried. “If that is your wish, then I think we should leave. You need to get away from this, maybe visit the mainland? We haven’t been there even once during these last score years. Or did you have something else in mind?” Kralon nodded slowly. “To Sanctuary we go first. Let us hurry to the shore, I don’t think the merchants have gone yet.”

They left together through the throne-room where they told the king’s advisor of their leaving, and left him in charge. From a rack behind his throne, Kralon picked up his mighty Hammer of Thunderdelve and carried on out of there.

They came to the shore just a few minutes later, not bringing anything with them save their son Gwaron and the Hammer.
“Ah, you are still here! Would you mind us coming with you to Sanctu...”
“What do you mean by keeping us here against our will? We cannot leave, and we want answers!” an angry merchant cried out to him, interrupting the king’s request. Kralon looked both confused and surprised. “You cannot leave? And why would I desire to keep you here against your will?” he said. “Well, I see no reason, but those runes on the hull are keeping us from embarking. Remove them, and we will be happy to bring you with us, would you only forgive my rudeness; I did not think about whom I spoke to in my moment of fury.” Kralon looked at the runes and said, “These runes are not my work. As for your apology, I accept it. But now my heart fears something even worse than what I at first imagined. There is evil work done here, I feel it!” He couldn’t be more right. The runes on the hull were a trick of Tagran’s. By not letting anyone escape the island, the Frysnaca would be able to kill everyone on the island.

An alarm was sound, startling merchant and king alike.
“Evil is come! Evil is come!” guards shouted from the castle. Kralon spoke slowly: “I cannot let my realm face this menace alone. Gahnia... Go with the merchants. I will follow you, should I manage to secure our land’s future welfare. If I fail, I will never meet you again... Farewell!”

Wielding the Hammer of Thunderdelve with both hands, Kralon ran back into the castle. A heavy tear slowly made its way down his cheek, and his eyes burned with sorrow, hatred and fear alike.

Entering the castle, two guards came to Kralon, telling him of what had befell the castle. “Through the mines it came, killing everything in its way! We have blocked the doors, and it should be locked in for now. But we don’t know for how long...” Kralon raised an eyebrow. “WHAT came? Explain what you are talking about, guard! I’m waiting.” “The snake! A horrible creature, its body a blazing torch, destroying our mines!” Kralon went away, telling the guards to follow him to the throne room, where he would gather all the guards of the civilization and speak to them.

“Soldiers! Never before have we been attacked while our stay on this island has lasted. I am glad now that I kept a defence of such strong dwarves as you are. How many are we? Eighty?” He looked down upon the gathered mass, swiftly counting them. “Four and eighty we are” a grim voice answered. “I am certain that we can take care of this threat soon!” Kralon looked down on the dwarven captain who spoke those words. “So am I. One on eighty-four should pose no threat, I am sure. Unbar the gates to the mines, organize yourselves: we are going into battle! We meet at the beach and enter the mines from the south.” Kralon stepped down from his throne where he was seated, and asked four strong dwarves to follow him, and he left the others to form their own groups according to the will of the captains.

No more than an hour later, everyone was armed and ready to enter the mines. They made eleven groups; seven soldiers with one captain in ten groups, and Kralon leading the group of the four he chose to accompany him in the throne-room. Opening the doors, they entered the mines and split up in its vast mazes. The whole mines smelled of sulphur and the air was warm. No life was to be seen anywhere.
After walking for several hours in the dark and desolate passages of the mines, a dwarf could be seen walking towards the party of Kralon with slow steps, ever stumbling as if he were hurt. Kralon hasted to meet up with him, his party following. “You are alive! Can this thing be defeated? Tell us... do we have any hope?” Kralon asked. He got no answer in words, but a gurgling sound left the throat of the dwarf as he cast himself over Kralon, making him fall to the ground. The soldiers rushed to his aid, wielding their axes and hammers with skill. They threw the dwarf away and helped Kralon up.
“That thing is not one of us! Kill it!” Kralon shouted, but the soldiers did nothing. With a battle cry that would have stunned even the great Tagran, Kralon charged forward, wielding his hammer, and crushed the body of the dwarf to dust. Astounded, the soldiers looked upon their king. “That thing was not alive, I tell you! He was cold, and he smelled of burnt flesh. He must have been under some spell of the fire-serpent...” Kralon showed a grim face as he grieved the death of a fallen kinsman. They kept walking and found themselves in a great guardroom rather soon. There they rested and ate from an unspoiled food storage. “We should get going, King... This place puts fear in my heart” a guard told Kralon. “We are going, I feel something too...”

They all stood up and walked towards the exit, which was a closed door. One of the soldiers, the greatest in stature, pushed the door open and was answered by a hammer crushing his skull. The others threw themselves a few steps back and wielded their weapons, seeing many dwarves, their beards and flesh seared as if touched by a great flame, entering the door with a beastly glow in their eyes. “These are the same as the one who attacked me earlier! Destroy them!” Kralon shouted, and the soldiers charged right on, hewing heads with their axes and crushing skulls with their hammers. At least twenty came, and slaying two more of the soldiers with Kralon, only one was left with him after the battle.
“We are alone, King... We have no hope out there. What do you plan to do?” Kralon was grieved and thought a long while before answering: “I suggest we stay here in this room and get rid of the bodies. Here we have both food and water for at least a week, and the others will no doubt find us... won’t they?” The guard shook his head. “I do not think so, my King...”
Silence came between them, but soon this last soldier of the king’s party started carrying out the dead and barring the door with the weapons of his fallen comrades. Kralon stood silent all the time, in deep thought. Were his wife and child safe? Did they leave the island, or were they still stuck on the shore? He didn’t care about his own life anymore. His life’s work was soon to be destroyed, should the other soldiers have met the same fate, as had his own party. He sighed, and lay to rest for a moment.

The King never left that guardroom again, but fought bravely on the fifth day of his stay the hordes of undead dwarves the Frysnaca had slain and reanimated, even after the last of his soldiers had died. Hundreds he slew, for many of the killed undead awoke once more to fight, and at last he was cornered and fatigued, but he crushed their bodies with his last strength until his arms were both ripped off and he could no longer defend himself. His hammer was carried out from the guardroom a few days later, when a group of soldiers entered the guardroom and found their king slain among heaps of their own kin.
It is said that after a few weeks, the doors of the mines were again shut from the outside, and the few that remained inside fought bravely against the Frysnaca and its armies of undead for a long time, and calling upon the aid of ancient spirits of the island, they managed to imprison their enemy within a great pool of water that nearly quenched its burning body. Being locked inside the mines, the dwarves could not leave their prison, so they started to prepare anyone that would enter the mines and possibly release the Frysnaca for what they had to deal with. Great things they built and made in the fashion of the dwarves. When they died, the very presence of the Frysnaca made their souls walk the mines as mindless spirits, and their bodies in the same fashion, ever searching the mines for easy preys.

Gahnia and Gwaron managed to leave the island after many days of being stuck on the shore. The merchants fed them with the food they brought, and finally took them along to Sanctuary, where they lived for a while before heading out to the new dwarven realms of Kraegor. There they stayed for the rest of their lives. Gahnia never found a new husband, being ever in hope that Kralon would return to her. Gwaron found a wife with whom he had many children, and the history of their family has not yet come to its final chapter. Many tries has the family of Kralon made to retake Thunderdelve, but in the stead of the Frysnaca as the usurper, outlaw dwarves came into the desolate castle and made it into their headquarters, preventing the old king’s family from once again ruling the Thunder Island.

In his stone-halls, Tagran laughed at the fate of Thunderdelve, and found it very amusing that though the Frysnaca didn’t completely destroy the island, it was taken away from the goods forever. Drago was pleased, and evil had won a great victory, once more entitled Tagran.

Chapter VI

Time went by, and Tagran had grown more powerful than ever before, and one could almost say that he was the most powerful being in the world, save perhaps the gods and their avatars. But all stories must end, and this is how the evil reign of Tagran was to be thrown down at last, after a century of bringing terror and chaos into the world.

At this time, the Knights of Salvation, led by their master Sentinel, were marching towards the mountains of Tagran. “March, O brave Knights! To the mountains we go, to retake what is ours! Fear us, Tagran! None may stop us, the Knights of Salvation!” Sentinel’s spirits were on top. He had for 15 long years sought the hiding-place of Tagran, and had finally, after taxing his divining skills to the fullest, found it. Aiding him in his quest, his special forces, the Knights of Salvation, known for their skill and courage in war, had joined him to destroy this mighty evil and again bring harmony into the world.

In the fading of Patchwall in Airseason, in the year of 1650 of the Third Age, they found the hidden entrance to the dwelling of Tagran. There they entered and, descending a long stairway cut in the mountain, found a great lake of lava, which they managed to cross due to Sentinel’s cunning alone.

The dark atmosphere of the hidden caves stroke fear deep into the hearts of Sentinel’s men, the very walls around them seemed menacing and intimidating; the ground they treaded was screaming with the voices of countless tortured souls, longing to be released from the evil of this accursed place. Such was the power of evil in those days that the very earth itself trembled with fear for it. But Sentinel went on. He had to reclaim his Scales of Balance, no matter the price. Luckily Tagran had not found a way to use them yet. Sentinel knew this, for would it be that Tagran had used them, evil would have conquered the world long ago.

Once on the other side of the lava-lake, the Knights’ courage seemed to leave them, and they grew afraid of continuing. “Not much is now left, soldiers! You can’t stop here, we must get back what is ours!” Sentinel urged them on, and heeding this, they kept going, until the dark passage now turned eastwards. Evil laughter echoed against the black stonewalls, filling the Knights with fear profounder than anything they had ever felt before. Still they went on, only to find a whole coven of demonic witches ready to defend their Lord.
With a cry, Sentinel attacked their leader, the Knights following his example. The witches cast their spells, but Sentinel was too strong for them, and he destroyed them utterly with little aid of his Knights. Sheathing Tahanar, his legendary crystal-sword, Sentinel turned to his Knights. A few of them were hurt, but none had died.

Unnoticed, and by the unholy power hidden within these halls, the corpses of the witches started merging together, forming the shape of a great wyvern attacking Sentinel from behind. The Knights threw themselves into the fight, hurling the wyvern away from Sentinel, but before he could turn to attack it, three brave knights had fallen dead, their bodies split by the beast’s mighty jaws. Sentinel unsheathed and wielded Tahanar, and with outstanding skill gashed the throat of the wyvern badly, making its blood flood the ground. The beast staggered, gasping vainly in hope of a few more moments of life, and fell to the ground as the second blow of Tahanar fell swiftly over its neck. Its fall crushed with its massive weight two badly hurt knights, too slow to evade the huge beast. Only Sentinel dared to move, and slowly walking to the corpse of his lost men’s bane, he sheathed Tahanar once more. “Behold! Such is the power of Tahanar, and such are the methods of evil in these days; deceitful and deadly, ever claiming new victims and never paying back completely what it owes!”

He carried on in anger, not even looking to the hurt men that followed him.

Soon the passage would turn northwards, and following it he started to feel the evil presence of Tagran not far away. But he did not notice the plan Tagran had in mind for the intruder, indeed not before being attacked from the back by the remainder of the Knights of Salvation, whose minds were now so weakened with fear and terror that Tagran could control them from his seat, not far from there. So deep ran his malice, and his cunning, that he would turn servant upon master.
However mighty the knights were, Sentinel was mightier. He tried vainly to bring them back to their senses, striving with Tagran’s mind. It might have been that he would have defeated the demon, had it not been that the battling with his knights distracted him. Hearing Tagran’s laughter from afar, Sentinel shed many tears while hewing his soldiers’ heads and limbs and filling the halls with their blood.

Staggering, though physically unhurt, he continued to follow the passage now turning westwards, still grasping Tahanar with both his hands, blood dripping from it unto the ground. Tagran’s plan to kill Sentinel had failed, for now, and had instead filled Sentinel with hatred so deep that its mere being could indeed have been enough to destroy the demon. But it didn’t – not yet.

Suddenly the passage ended, and Sentinel entered a small room, where on the ground lay scattered the bodies of many men, probably victims of cruel torture devised by Tagran. The air was dank and hot, and being filled with the rotten smell of long-dead corpses, Sentinel held his breath and scoured the room for exits. To the north another broad passage opened. Apart from that, the only way out of the room was heading back east. This, however, was not an option for Sentinel. He hurried, though uncertain of what he would meet and if he would come out of this battle alive, northwards into the broader passage, which would prove to be no less dark and filled with evil.

Suddenly he stopped. He could hear a faint voice whispering in his mind. He could not hear it clearly, and thought it to be another trick labelled Tagran. But he remained calm, as if some power even greater than the demon’s was at work. Slowly a great shield started materializing before him. He then recognized the voice in his mind as that of Reset, his god. Being fully aware of who it was that spoke, he now heard clearly what it said, and it urged him to pick up the shield and use it in the battle against Tagran, for it would be needed. More weapons than the dreaded scythe of doom did the demon have, and this was soon to be noticed.

He said a short prayer, thanking Reset for this gift, before he went on northwards where he found a staircase, as black as the rest of the tunnels, emitting a foreboding aura of pure darkness and evil. Sentinel took a deep breath and hurried up the stairs, ready to face glory - or death.

Still blacker it became. Sentinel could see no more than a few feet in front of him; so compact was the darkness in these halls. The smell of death surrounded him, and he thought he could hear whispering voices, urging him to release them from their cursed fate at the demon’s mercy. He turned southwards, sensing a grave evil in that direction. Walking there, he would soon begin to see the blurred features of a scythe’s burning blade.

Sitting on his black throne, Tagran now saw Sentinel coming up the stairs to the north. Tarkamish was beside him, held in his right hand and supported by the black stone floor. He did not fear what was to happen, though he was uncertain of the battle’s outcome. Would it be that he lost, what would happen to the evil he had worked so hard for? Would Drago pardon him, or would he rather send him to be eternally tormented within the endless pits of Hell from whence he came? He did not know, nor did he care. All he knew was that would he defeat this most powerful follower of Reset, his seat would be nearly as high as Drago’s below the Dark Queen. Driven by this, he calmly awaited Sentinel’s approach, clutching Tarkamish ever firmer.

A white shimmering pierced the darkness. A shield was raised, and by the side of its wearer was held Tahanar – the blade of justice. Sentinel was prepared to send the devil to his doom. Silence reigned. Tagran sat a long time, eying the mighty Sentinel from top to toe. In time he spoke: “So here we are... Finally. I have been expecting you for many long years, dog of Reset. My waiting has ended, and it will be a long time before I release you from this place again. Tormented you shall be. Forever!”
He rose, wielding Tarkamish with both his hands. The blade of the scythe glowed with fierce flames, and the horn of the devil was no less glowing than the scythe.
Sentinel answered him grimly: “Your evil reign has ended, devil, lest you hand over the Scales of Balance right in this moment. Do so, and I will leave you in peace for now.”
Tagran’s diabolical laughter filled the halls. “Hand them over?! Now let us not for one second believe that I would do such a thing. Enough of this babbling. You won’t have them, and you know it. Be prepared to meet your death, Sentinel!”

Sentinel stood still, not a muscle moved. His attempt to evade battle had failed.

Tagran rushed at him, cleaving the air with Tarkamish. The walls shook with a terrible noise and it seemed that the mountains would collapse at the power of that swing. Sentinel jumped back with a flip, and landed kneeling on the floor. He rose slowly, eying the demon. They walked towards each other, their weapons raised, and their speed increasing with each step, until they were close enough to attack one another. The darkness between them seemed to disappear, and Sentinel’s sight was now as good as the demon’s.
The scythe was once again first to action, but Tahanar was in its way, preventing any harm to its master. Whipping his tail, Tagran made Sentinel fall to the ground, but the great Shield of Balance saved him that time, and he struggled to his feet. Tagran kept on chopping, but ever did he hit Sentinel’s shield, and never did the shield seem to break. Sentinel was strong, but Tagran seemed to have the advantage when suddenly the first blood was shed, and it was the black blood of Tagran that stained the floor, emitting dark vapours and a smell of burnt flesh.
Tagran screamed, but would not be killed that easily. He hewed at the shield once more, and followed up the attack with another whipping of his tail, piercing the weapon arm of Sentinel, who cast himself back, but remained silent, though in great pain. A swift stroke of Tahanar landed on Tarkamish, and the two great weapons struggled with each other, before Tagran let his left hand leave the scythe and grab Sentinel by his wounded arm and cast him at the huge throne next to them. Trying to catch his breath, Sentinel lay wounded on the floor, his skull bruised and his face covered with his own blood. The demon would not stay his hand, but kept on attacking, yet Sentinel rolled over, and managed to stand up and in the same movement strike Tagran’s throat badly. The great devil screamed, severely hurt, and made his scythe hit the ground with terrible might, and he disappeared. Wiping the blood away from his face, Sentinel looked around.
Tagran was not to be seen. Was this the end of the world’s greatest plague in this age? Sentinel moved slowly towards the stairway, for close to them he now felt the presence of the scales.

An altar he saw, that he had not earlier seen, standing not far from the stairs. He went there, his eyes gazing at its top, where lay the glowing scales. He went to get them but as he did, they disappeared, and from above came Tagran flying, his scythe above his head ready to cleave anything in its way. Sentinel did not even get a chance to move but got a serious gash in the shoulder of his shield arm, a hit that would have killed any mortal man in any realm of the world. Somehow, his shoulder managed to endure the blow and Sentinel did not let his shield drop, but stood still straight, and turning around he dealt a blow, deadly and accurate, to the side of the demon’s chest. Black blood once again was shed, like a fountain of unholy impurity, slowly draining the life of Tagran, who once again hit the ground with his scythe and disappeared, licking his wounds and preparing something new. This time, Sentinel was prepared, but deeply hurt and had lost lots of blood already. Staggering, he went back to the black throne, but no signs of Tagran were to be seen. He heard deep breathing coming from the east, and turned thither. Not long would it be before he saw a kneeling Tagran, struggling to get on his feet again. The demon noticed Sentinel, and stood up, despite the pain, and ran against him, his scythe raised to kill.
Sentinel waited, and skilfully stepped aside when the blow fell, and returned an attack of ungodly might, gashing the stomach of the huge red demon, which fell to the ground with a terrible roar, slowly fading in the black halls. Silence reigned once again. No sign of life could Sentinel see in the demon. But had he survived the earlier blows of Tahanar, he could still be alive and planning some new devilry. To be sure, Sentinel once again let the crystal blade pierce the skin of the mighty Tagran, and this time he aimed at his head, cutting the now dull horn from its seat upon the brow of the demon.
With this done Sentinel fell to the ground, having lost too much blood to stand up. With a desperate prayer, he once again could rise, his wounds healed and his mind filled-up to the brim with knowledge of Reset smiling at him. He went back to the stairway, where now again a black altar was standing, and the glowing scales on its top. Never had they looked so beautiful as in this hour. Something stirred behind him, and he turned around to see that the body of the demon was gone. Not a trace was left of it, not even the blood earlier shed. Sentinel grabbed the scales, and as his fingers touched the mighty artefacts, he was surrounded by the silvery light as a portal opens toward Valhalla, where he would now belong to. Yet this is altogether another story.

Thus was the deed of Sentinel completed, and the Golden Scales of Balance once more in the hands of neutrality. As for the golden horn, he kept it for a trophy of war, forever reminding him of his last days as a mortal in the world of Frandum. What was true about Tagran’s fate after death, if indeed he was dead, no one knows save Drago and the Dark Queen. But evil endured, and never has it been truly defeated. This was however one of the most painful defeats the evils would ever suffer, and even the mighty Drago feared for the future without his greatest commander.

Thus ended also the long tale of Tagran, Harbinger of Destruction, created by the hands of the Firelord Drago, Hand of Darkness, in the endless pits of Hell, deep beneath the face of the world, in the ancient days of the Third Age, also mentioned in the books of lore as the Age of Legends; slayer of the Winged God Myhrwald and destroyer of the Airy Land and its people, breeder of unnumbered abominations and terrors; the bane of Thunderdelve, the realm over which countless tears were ever after shed in vain; reaper of the Golden Scales of Balance, and finally slain due to this deed by the brave soul of Sentinel of the Scales, most powerful under the watching eye of Reset, god of Balance.

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