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         Copyright © Randy Bowers. All rights reserved.


The Defeat of Titalus, Torment of Slavery

It is said that there was a moment when the battle which had raged for hours fell still. Ten had entered the Black Anvil Gate and spent days in the pits of Eldin. Six had arrived to do battle with the Torment of Slavery, Titalus. Then, there was a moment of stillness as the five who survived watched the yawning shadow of darkness swallow up their adversary and the divine Disk of Qo with it, leaving nothing but bitter ridicule on the battlefield with the heroes. Ridicule and laughter haunting them as the Torment of Slavery escaped into our home world.
    Then that moment shattered and the world about them too began to fall apart as the sky cracked and plunged down in great flaming shards, the courtyard on which the battle had raged crumbling from beneath the heroes feet. There was no time for defeat, not while one of the Twelve Torments enacting disaster on their home world. Elena acted first, gathering those who still stood together and spoke words of power that folded reality about them.
    The world seemed to bend as they traveled the planes and suddenly their feet rested on a dry, grassy knoll that looked out over farmers fields. In the distance could be seen the shining spires and towers of Bluewater. A brief glimpse of what would be lost if Titalus was allowed time to conjure its armies.
    “Quickly now, do not let go,” she commanded and smoothly uttered more arcane words, causing the world to flicker once, suddenly transporting them to another hill that looked out on a sea of battle. All about them moved the river of war.
    The weather itself conspired against the devil armies, sending hail and tornadoes down upon strongholds of their numbers. Trees strode from the forest to engage the fiends alongside elf, dwarf, and human. Devil and mortal swung sword and mace. Lances buckled on scales and the sounds of the dying were a symphony surrounding the work that Titalus wrought in the distance. Deep in the battlefield, at the feet of the Doridos Mountains it labored and erected a new Anvil Gate. Like two curving tusks the sides of the gate plunged up from the earth, high into the sky, their points barely touching and the darkness of nothing filled the expanse between them. Thunder rolled down over the hills, seeming to keep pace with the clangor of the battle. The cliff side behind the Torment of Slavery had been shaped into the likeness of a colossal throne where Titalus could recline and watch its armies flow over the world, should it finish the task of opening its portal.
    A pyre of blood-red flame boiled out of the ground before the heroes and from its heart stepped the elfin hero of Greentree and Paladin of Daer-Koch, Kith-tal Thasoon. About him there seemed to move the radiant ghost of a holy warrior which followed the paladin’s movements in perfect unison.
    “It is well that heroes should make their glorious stand at the climax of battle,” he cried, “We did not fear that you would come, only what side of the battle you would be with. Come, there is our foe. We will help you fight your way to him so you can do that which must be done.”
    Turning, he and his glowing shadow strode down and into the battle, sword sweeping aside devils that dared come within reach. They followed him into battle: Al-Rathis the dwarven barbarian, the druidess Sasha, Tellzan the masterless warrior, their stone-elf lore-master Ayoi, and the Elemental Master called Elena. Together they marched through the fields of carnage. Then from out of the battle there arose the wicked half-spirit, half-demon Aoran, one of the fabled Three of Shadow. Black nothing crackled from its ghostly arms, whose touch could consume a man’s soul whole.
    “Come indeed, foolish mice, your bodies shall be fitting puppets to my whim,“ cried out the shade, “And your spirits a fine appetizer before the endless buffet of souls I shall enslave this new age!” But Kith-Tal raised his blade and turned aside the churning assault of foul magic, “March on! Your destiny is at the feet of the mountains. Slay the Torment of Slavery!” Then he charged forward to engage the demon-wraith Aoran. So on they fought through the battle, through the lines of devils.
    There stood the Torment of Slavery, Titalus. Its monstrously fat body, massive like a great hill, covered in polyp speckled ash gray flesh. Its face an upended triangle of wrinkles interrupted only by two beady eyes of molten blackness and a wide mouth filled with double rows of fangs. Its jowls obediently and smoothly joined to its corpulent body, like a widening gray mountain of flesh. Its excess hung from its arms, legs, and belly, dressed in a cloak of bruised-purple reignment built from the bone and flesh of failed servitors. Beneath its skin could be seen could be seen disturbing movements of trapped souls it had consumed. All its being an excess of self-indulgence earned on the backs of legions of slaves and misfortunates. The great gashes left behind from the swords of Al-Rathis and Tellzan were gone. Now it busied itself with magical labor, scepter in one hand, crafting the sorcery which would open the great black gate and bring the rest of its waiting armies into this world. A legion of its servants guarded the way and behind them a great crystal dome which shielded the Torment from distractions of the battle that covered the plain.
    With a fearsome battle-cry, Al-Rathis scattered the armies that stood before the dome, cowing the devils into submission with his great roar. Then, slinging the Horn of Bruendar from his back, setting its mouth on the ground, he gathered his breath and blew.
    The clarion call of the Horn of Bruendar was heard across all the battlefield. More than a rallying cry for the dwarven clans that had come to help in the conflict, its power roared out before Al-Rathis and struck against the crystal dome that protected the Torment of Slavery. He blew and blew, eyes squinted and cheeks puffed in concentration till all sound of combat and death was overcome, till jagged cracks split the surface of the dome and its magic was rent apart.
    Without delay, Tellzan charged over the broken devil corpses, Sasha rose into the air and gathered a whirlwind about herself, and Ayoi brought the powers of song and blade against the Torment of Slavery. The fiend turned to meet them and battle was joined. It belched forth broken spirits which clutched and snatched at the life-essence of the heroes, but the powerful rings given them by Vainegal and crafted by Malvogibrand kept their souls secure. It swung its scepter upon them with a roar of fury, but armor crafted from the rarest celestial steel taken from the dwarven halls of Dunnal Krannok turned them away. It raised shields of spirits from its flesh to ward away the heroes’ attacks, but there were too many strikes of magic and steel to guard from. It wore an immortal mantle like that of unkillable gods, but the spirits of the heroes had been tempered with divine gifts of their own. Their swords pierced its flesh, their spells rent at the Torment’s being. The axe of Al-Rathis brought the king-fiend to its knees. Battered and covered with the blood of hundreds of devils, Tellzan struck the fatal blow and the coil of Titalus was slain.
    The battle still raged on, devils given to their bloodlust and mortal warriors who refused to let another step of their world be tread beneath fiendish foot. Across the field of blood from the heroes there was heard a great wailing and a fountain of blood was seen pierced by a light from the heavens. Aoran, bereft of his master’s power, had fallen to the sword of Kith-Tal. The mighty paladin of Daer-Koch hastened to the side of the heroes, who still stood before the unfinished Anvil Gate.
    “It must be destroyed! Strike the Disc of Qo that empowers it,” his shout was heard, ”End this tragedy forevermore!” He pointed to the great round stone of power which lay at the base of the gate.
    Al-Rathis and Tellzan set their swords against the great slab of stone that held the essence of the dead god Qo, but sword could not scar its surface. Sasha and Elena called their greatest magics, but mortal magic too was not enough.
    “There is only one way,” spoke Ayoi, her lore and great mind divining the answer and risks of such action while she watched her companions labor to destroy the relic. Striding forward, she snatched up the heavy scepter of Titalus, which diminished in size till she could heft it in two hands. Then, she rained blows with it upon the spirit stone, each blow cracking its surface, and the earth trembling beneath. Divine energy of Qo escaped from the stone, then fully consumed it. The gate above crumpled and disintegrated, then all the battlefield was deafened by the white roar of power released.
    A wave of force, a crescendo of released energy, expanded outward like a terrible wind, tearing the tops from mountains, killing everything in its path, scattering devil and mortal corpses alike. The sky darkened with ash and fire. Cracks rent the ground and great parts of the battlefield were swallowed up as the earth collapsed beneath. A tidal wash of earth and flame rolled down from the mountains, filling the battlefield turned graveyard. It was over.

Who can say what truly was in the hearts of the heroes, whose magic held them standing upon the air over the wasteland below, as they looked out upon the destruction there. Seeing such things and performing such deeds must transform heroes within, but who can say.
    Al-Rathis returned south with the dwarven clans and rested within their holdfast to long contemplate the events that had taken place. Sasha bid farewell to her friends and traveled out to sea in search of a quieter land where, no doubt, she could do much the same. Tellzan, more than any of the companions, had suffered the corruption of his spirit by the touch of Titalus and what was witnessed in the depths of Eldin, but he hid the seed of evil within him and vanished south to raise a kingdom of his own. Elena left the mortal world to travel the elemental realms, perfect her art, and complete her transcendence.
    Before leaving to the west, to the hidden Arnorian Valleys of her ancestors, Ayoi looked over the destruction and then quietly opened her fist which she had kept clenched. There, branded deep into her flesh was the master sign of the Torment of Slavery.