From Diablo Wiki
Diablo: Demonsbane was included in the Diablo Archive, released in July 2008. That tome bundled the first three Diablo Novels and this novella in one large book.
- 1 Description
- 2 Canon?
- 3 Demonsbane Characters
- 4 Locations
- 5 Summary
- 6 Scriptures
- 7 Excerpt
- 8 External Links
Since the beginning of time, the angelic hosts of the High Heavens and the demonic hordes of the Burning Hells have been locked in a struggle for the fate of all creation. That struggle has now come to the mortal realm...and neither Man nor Demon nor Angel will be left unscathed....
What was to have been a victorious last stand against the demonic invasion of Entsteig has instead become a massacre. Only Siggard remains, a warrior unable to remember the final hours of the battle, driven by the carnage he experienced and the void in his mind to avenge those slain by the army of darkness. As he hunts the demon lord who butchered everything dear to him, Siggard also pieces together the truth of that terrible battle...and finds that his nightmare is only just beginning.
An original tale of swords, sorcery, and timeless struggle based on the bestselling, award-winning M-rated electronic game from Blizzard Entertainment. Intended for mature readers.
There has been some debate as to whether the events in this novella are officially "canon." In support, it can be noted that Blizzard has not disavowed the book, and it was included in the Diablo Archive, which was published after Diablo III was revealed.
It's something of a moot point though, since none of the events or characters in Demonsbane have any direct connection to events in the main plot of the Diablo series
- Old Banagar
- Earl Edgewulf
- Earl Tilgar
- Captain Hagan
- Prince Hrothwulf
- Commander Wulfgar
- Commander Guthwulf
During the Night of Souls, Siggard awoke with barely any trace of memory of how he got there, or what happened to him. His last memory was to be with Earl Edgewulf's army at Blackmarch defending Entsteig from an invasion. Just he couldn't remember who the enemies were.
He walked and couldn't recognize his location. Following the road, he found a three-way crossroads. On the side, a hoisted corpse hanged from a tree. In the mist, he saw strange things, ghosts. It was the Night of Souls, when it is said that spirits return for vengeance and to roam the land in penance.
He made a campfire, and shortly fell asleep. In his dreams he saw Earl Edgewulf and his army. He is a shield-man and he was part of the shield wall at Blackmarch. The enemy approached, and in terror he gazed at demonic doglike creatures wielding axes and goatmen among other horrors.
With a shake, a hooded figure with gray vestments woke him up asking if he could share the campfire. Tyrael asked Siggard what brought him here of all nights. Siggard doesn't remember how he got there. Last he knows, he was at the battle of Blackmarch, and based on the Night of Souls being today, that battle took place two nights before.
Tyrael told Siggard he was 10 leagues south of Blackmarch, two days away. But he recommended him to go to Entsteig, for bad things have happened at Blackmarch. Siggard still wished to get back there to find out what happened to the army and to protect his wife and recently born daughter.
The night of souls was nigh over, and Siggard was alleviated that all the souls and bizarre visions would vanish with the dawn. Mysteriously, the robed figure was no longer there when Siggard turned around. Tyrael was gone.
Siggard continued his journey toward Blackmarch through the roads, and while resting a vizjerei mage woke him up, asking permission to join him. Sarnakyle was an adventurer, exploring the country. He didn't hesitate offering his aid to Siggard and decided to follow him toward Blackmarch. Sarnakyle had heard that the army of Entsteig had fallen to demons. As a master of magic, he was well versed on the demon lore and had manipulated demons himself. He considered he could be useful to Siggard on whatever he would face in Blackmarch.
After two days of travel, they stopped by a nearby village, not too far from Siggard's village. Demons had ravaged it. The buildings were ablaze, and a pile of decayed skulls were found at the townsquare. This bore ill thoughts for Siggard about the fate of his family. They continued their journey toward Bear's Hill village.
There they found another pyramid of skulls, and among them was the head of Emilye. Siggard saddened before the remains of his wife. Sarnakyle detected three observers nearby lurking in the shadows. Tylwulf and Camylle were among the few survivors of Bear's Hill village. Sarnakyle found suspicious the demons would leave survivors.
Both were invited to eat and rest at Tylwulf's cottage. There Camylle asked Siggard what happened to him these past days. He only remembers the shield wall and some enemies in the forest, but all memory afterward is blurred. He thinks he appeared at Aranoch two days later during the Night of Souls.
When it was time to sleep, Sarnakyle asked Siggard to prepare for battle, to his surprise. Sarnakyle thought there would be treachery. First, how could there be ten survivors when the demons had killed everyone everywhere they had gone. And how did they know he was a vizjerei and more importantly -- one of the Spirit Clan. Only two possibilities here could have known him for what he was: other Mage clan members or demons.
With lights off, Siggard and Sarnakyle hid on each side of the door. Tylwulf entered the room and stabbed the forms under the blanket aiming for the heart. Siggard put his blade on Tylwulf's throat, while Sarnakyle held Camylle at her waist with a dagger on her throat. Siggard demanded to know the truth.
The 10 men that survived were offered power by the demons. They had simply to give them everyone pledged to the Light. They convinced the villagers to surrender to the demons, and they would give them mercy. However, the demons killed them all where they stood. The babies and children eaten by the demons. The survivors had some of their spirits, and even a share of the babies' flesh to eat. In horror after hearing this, Siggard killed them both. Then slayed the other eight that came to confront him.
Sarnakyle's experience with demons told him this demonic force was led by an archdemon. A baron of Hell. Lesser demons won't follow one of their own kind. One of great power had to led them. Siggard swore for the blood of his wife and that of the ten he had slain that he would find this archdemon and destroy it.
Half-way to Brennor, there was an inn where Siggard's father once took him to in his childhood. He took Sarnakyle there to rest before continuing their journey, but the Inn was burned and its inhabitants dead. A storm approached, and Siggard told Sarnakyle the only thing between the Inn and Brennor was a barrow-ground to the south of the Inn. The barrow was where the ancient kings were buried.
There they protected themselves from the weather and lightning. One of the crypts had strange runes and skeletons merged down onto the walls. One of the tombs had a runed sword. Sarnakyle identified it as forged by Velund. The swords were forged by him to be great allies to its owner. If the sword chooses its master, it serves him to death. If Siggard was chosen, the sword would call to him and if Siggard said the true name of the sword, it would be his.
The sword sung to Siggard in his mind. It sung of glory and battles, of armies of angels and demons. A battle at the gates of Heaven, and a word formed in Siggard's lips. The skeletal limbs on the walls rose as if ready to strike the intruders. Siggard said the name: Guthbreoht. The limbs and skulls rested back to their former position. Sarnakyle said these were the guardians of the sword.
The storm stopped abruptly, and they left the crypt to find a better place to sleep through the night. Siggard slept while holding the sword Guthbreoht. It sung to him during his dreaming. Memories assailed him. At Blackmarch, the shield wall was crushed in some places as boulders were thrown into the crowds of Entsteig soldiers, flattening entire groups. Spear-men kept holding their ground against the demons though. Lots of doglike demons and goatmen carrying axes, clubs and bows killed various shield-men. Siggard killed a goatmen, and more kept coming. Suddenly, a giant demon came through. Archers hit it but the arrows would just bounce off its crimson chest.
It had bright glowing red eyes, and horns protruded from its shoulders, elbows and knees. It wore a primitive loincloth, a belt and a giant sword. On its chest an emblazoned glyph. The creature bellowed he was the favored of the Lord of Terror, Assur. He asked the army of Entsteig to surrender or they would die.
Prince Hrothwulf screamed they would not surrender to darkness. Assur smiled and said everyone would die then. Suddenly, various shield wall soldiers from the back of the lines started dying, blood splashing everywhere. An invisible force went through the army as a slaughtering force. The line was broken. The creatures wielding daggers started to materialize. Old Banagar was among the victims near Siggard. He continued killing the creatures, but the army was falling to panic by dozens.
Siggard awoke in the morning to see Sarnakyle preparing for their journey to Brennor. At midday, they reached Brennor -- a huge fortified town that was said to be impenetrable. Soldiers wore deep blue tabards and shining mail armor. The guards halted them and asked what their business was. Siggard wanted to talk to the Earl of Brennon, Earl Edgewulf, and to sleep the night before heading south to the King's Road. They were taken to the stone castle in the middle of Brennon. There they were welcomed by the Steward of Brennon, Hunfrith.
Hunfrith refused to bother Earl Tilgar, and wished to know first what they wanted to tell the Earl of Brennor. They had no trading in the past days, and the King's son and Earl Edgewulf had been slain along with their army at Blackmarch. Earl Tilgar was now busy with trying to reestablish power in a kingdom with no prince to lead the future of Entsteig. Siggard and Sarnakyle could be assassins for all they knew, wishing to slay Earl Tilgar.
Siggard and Sarnakyle explained that demons had invaded their lands, and that their strategy was to cut off any supplies and trading before attacking the main fortification in the area. In this case, the demons might be preparing to attack Brennon any minute. Siggard said he was there at Blackmarch as a shield-man of the army of Earl Edgewulf and Prince Hrothwulf.
Hunfrith didn't believe them and dismissed them before asking the guards to expulse them out of the castle. He thought that Siggard was a coward that deserted the army of Blackmarch and was inventing the story about demons, ghost and goblins to justify himself. And threatened to hang him for cowardice if he didn't abandon the premises.
Both settled at an inn in the northern side of the town, where they were planning to attempt to talk to the Earl in the morning. Sarnakyle asked Siggard if he remembered anything about the demonlord that attacked Blackmarch. He could only remember his horned body and a glyph on his chest. Sarnakyle worried now. The glyph could only mean he was enchanted. Suddenly, smoke smell assailed their nostrils. The demonic attack had started setting the Armory of Brennor on the south-side of the town ablaze.
Both ran to the southern gate, and with his newfound sword Guthbreoht singing to him, he slayed demon after demon as if the sword controlled him. Sarnakyle the wizard called down lightning from the sky and hurled fireballs to slay the demons. Captain Hagan thanked both of them. If the armory had been destroyed, Brennor would be defenseless.
Shortly after, Earl Tigal and Steward Hunfrith arrived to survey the attacked area. Captain Hagan told him the visitors had stopped the initial attack. Earl Tilgar thanked them, and offered any rings from his personal treasury as reward. Earl Tigal asked both visitors to meet him next day in the morning at the castle.
Earl Tilgar welcomed them in the morning and presented them to a war council composed of Captain Hagan, Commander Wulfgar and Commander Guthwulf. Siggard told what happened at Blackmarch, describing the goatmen, the doglike demons, the archdemon and the shadowy beings. Sarnakyle said that these shadowy creatures were known among the vizjerei as the Hidden. They had attacked Viz-jun when Bartuc the Warlord of Blood summoned them and used the same tactics that the archdemon that attacked Blackmarch used. Sarnakyle theorized that the Hidden were already among the army of Entsteig at Blachmarch, awaiting the order of the archdemon to strike.
Earl Tilgar wondered if this Bartuc was behind the attack of Brennor. Sarnakyle said it couldn't be possible. He had helped to kill Bartuc two years ago. They agreed to prepare for battle, and sent scouts to find out where the demons were, how many, and how long before they would arrive. A day passed, and word came that three or five thousand demons were coming in the direction of Brennor within a day distance. The catapults and archers were prepared awaiting at the fortified walls.
The demons could now be visible in the horizon marching toward Brennor, carrying strange flags. Once the flags were more visible, Sarnakyle noticed the flayed corpse against a black moon mounted under a human skull. Sarnakyle was horrified and said: "No. Everyone, but him." Siggard asked who were they facing. Sarnakyle answered: "Assur. The favored baron of the Lord of Terror."
Sarnakyle became a wreck of nerves. They had already lost the battle if this was Assur. He can't be defeated. Both ran toward the War Room to alert Earl Tilgar to evacuate the town citizens through the underground tunnels. When reaching the War Room, Siggard noticed a fourth man along with Earl Tilgar. A robbed figure he very well recognized ... Tyrael, the man that shared a campfire with him during the Night of Souls. He thought him to be a ghost that fainted along with the other souls during the dawn.
Earl Tilgar was impressed to hear that Siggard had met Archangel Tyrael before. Siggard raised an eyebrow and asked why he hadn't said he was an angel before when they met. Tyrael said: "You didn't ask." Sarnakyle greeted Lord Tyrael and was glad to see him again. Apparently, Sarnakyle had met Tyrael two years earlier when fighting Bartuc the Warlord of Blood.
Sarnakyle warned Tyrael that the archdemon attacking them was Assur. Tyrael already knew and said it would be a hard battle. Sarnakyle asked if the Lords of the Heaven would come to aid them. Tyrael shook his head and said it was hard for the most powerful of Angels to appear on the mortal plane. Even for Tyrael it was hard to appear in Sanctuary, briefly, once every evening.
Sarnakyle said they were lost then, and requested Earl Tilgar to evacuate the townsfolk. Tilgar asked what was so special about the archdemon Assur. Sarnakyle revealed that he was one of the Lords of the Vizjerei. For decades he had studied the summoning of spirits and demons, and led many of the Spirit Clan in the Council of Viz-jun. They recently learned the names of most of the barons of Hell. Their lords, the Lesser and Prime Evils, who they know only by title. Of all the barons, Assur is the most feared. All they know is that he is the favored of the Lord of Terror. And he is enchanted with a Glyph of Invincibility, which can be cast once per millennium.
Commander Wulfgar asked if he summoned demons he could send them to battle Assur. Sarnakyle said he didn't have the power he used to, and that it would not be recommended. For centuries, the Vizjerei had summoned demons with ease, thinking they could control them. When Bartuc and his demons sieged Viz-jun, the vizjerei discovered they had been misled. The demons they summoned to fight Bartuc turned on the vizjerei. They had ten times more vizjerei to fight Bartuc's army, but a third of the vizjerei were slain not by Bartuc and his forces, but by the demons the vizjerei summoned themselves. These summoned demons couldn't be vanished. The lesser clans turned the tide with their elemental powers and defended the city of Viz-jun.
When the vizjerei were shattered, most of the Lords such as Sarnakyle left to wander the world in search of rediscovery, and to learn the elemental magic that had saved them from Bartuc and his demonic army. Sarnakyle has spent two years wandering Sanctuary in search of knowledge and to learn and polish his elemental magical abilities.
Tyrael said they had to fight this battle using their own resources. This battle has been fought for millennias between Heaven and Hell, and for the most, Sanctuary had been protected from the higher and lower planes. The Prime Evils had used the vizjerei to weaken that protection through summoning of demons.
If the demons established a foothold on Sanctuary, they could assault the very gates of Heaven from Sanctuary, while the forces of light couldn't in turn besiege the demons for their inability to appear and enter Sanctuary. This is why Assur has been sent. He will be victorious.
They fought the demons all day until late night. The demons stopped attacking. They had killed the first wave. The army of Brennon rested, and prepared in anticipation. The second wave hit them and goatmen started climbing the tall walls with ladders. The army of Brennon was able to hold them. Suddenly, Assur appeared and demanded them to surrender. He would slay only half of them if they surrendered, and allow the other half to serve him. Earl Tilgar yelled back refusing to surrender. Better to die in battle than to serve him in life. Siggard came to the realization that this was the same strategy played at Blackmarch. The arrival of Assur signaled the attack of the Hiddens. They had most likely infiltrated the fortress after the first wave ended, while they were resting and distracted to notice.
Siggard asked Earl Tilgar to evacuate the city. He commanded the order to evacuate and asked Siggard to come with him to the underground tunnels. The remaining city guards knew what to do. They would stay behind sacrificing to allow the city to evacuate. The King's men decided to stay behind to buy time for the evacuation.
Earl Tilgar revealed he had been evacuating the city of Brennor since Siggard and Sarnakyle warned them. The townsfolk were asked to move into the tunnels, not to exit them until he gave the order. By now, they were given the order to leave the tunnel on the other side, and most had been marching toward the capital of Entsteig. They are the last to evacuate. Commander Wulfgar didn't survive the injuries from a Hidden. After a long descend of stairs and reaching the end of the tunnel, the dawn welcomed them on the other side.
A big rumble noise like thunder was heard. Tilgar smiled. The King of Entsteig would never leave behind a city that could be used against him. The walls were built so that they could detach them and use them against the enemies leaving behind but a small fortress without the external walls surrounding the town.
Earl Tilgar asked Siggard to come with them, he would need his arm and sword. Siggard declined. He would stay and rest. And in the evening, he would return to Brennor ... alone. He had swore to kill the archdemon responsible for the death of his wife and baby, and of their villagers. Sarnakyle snapped at him, he knows what the glyph of invincibility meant. Siggard told Tilgar he had taken his final decision, and asked Sarnakyle to not come with him. He wouldn't want to endanger the wizard's life. The Earl and the refugees would have better use of his magical abilities.
In the evening, Siggard walked toward Brennor, passing the gates past the crumbled external walls of the city. Only demon and soldier corpses were about. Two goatmen passed nearby with torches. Siggard's sword sung wanting to slay more demons, but Siggard was patient. Soon he would have his vengeance. A thought came upon him, remembering Tylwulf. He drew a smile. The traitor of his village would be useful after all.
Siggard continued walking the desolate maze-like streets of Brennor, toward the stone castle. One of the doglike demons confronted Siggard, standing up the full length of its body on two legs and asked Siggard what did he want. Siggard replied he wanted to serve Lord Assur. The creature agreed and offered to escort him to Baron Assur who was at the stone castle. The doglike demon told Siggard that Baron Assur needed many men, needed to call more demons, needed more power. Siggard was to give his body, his soul, give Assur more power.
The doglike creature revealed Baron Assur was at the war room, where maps were over the table. Siggard beheaded the creature. He now knew where to find the archdemon. The demons he found on his way through the hallway didn't attack. If he had come this far, he had legitimate business with their master.
The door to the war room was unguarded, but Siggard knew better. With his sword Guthbreoht he slashed through thin air, and shortly two Hiddens heads fell to the ground. Siggard opened the door, and found Assur within. Assur unsheathed his own sword, and bellowed to Siggard that no living man could kill him, and remarked that not even with a sword forged by Velund.
Siggard said in rage he was Siggard of Bear's Hill, whose family and village he had slaughtered. He died inside the day his wife and daughter did, his soul was empty of all but lust for revenge. He was a dead man this day, and he would have his revenge.
After a formidable strike of swords, Siggard disarmed the archdemon, and impaled him in the chest through the glyph. Then beheaded him. The archdemon's body reverted back to a human corpse that he had no doubt possessed earlier to remain anchored to the mortal plane.
All demons in Brennor shrieked in agony and burst in flames. With their leader no longer powering their stay in the mortal plane, they had been vanished. Siggard sat at a nearby hill waiting the dawn. Thinking. Tyrael appeared before Siggard. Tyrael had seen Siggard stay the previous morning and return to Brennor in the night. Tyrael was curious of what Siggard would do. Siggard should be proud for ridding the world of a great evil.
Siggard was thinking about things. The two missing days he can't remember. The lack of appetite, and his stamina to withstand any wounds, and heal on their own. Then he pondered about Assur's glyph. No living hand could slay him.
Tyrael agreed. Siggard asked Tyrael when did he die then. Tyrael replied he died at Blackmarch, stabbed in the back by a Hidden. Siggard wondered if the Heaven had brougth him back. Tyrael said no. Siggard did it himself.
Very rarely, once every ten thousand years, a soul is so full of life, that death can't claim it. Tyrael had only seen one other man capable of doing that. Death had no hold on him, nor have life. He is in between until he can find a way to rest his immense vitality. Siggard thought he would find rest after completing his vengeance upon the one who slayed his family, but he felt hollow.
Siggard won't find his peace through vengeance. It only bores hatred. And hatred never bring peace. Siggard will find true peace only when he has made an act of love. And that may take him centuries before finding it. Tyrael gave him the option to seek that act of love that could bring him peace, or wander Sanctuary for centuries helping the Angels and Heaven in their fight against Hell. Siggard has quite a gift -- Tyrael said. The Primal Evils seek a way to have a hold on the mortal plane. Siggard would be the perfect soldier against them if he helped the forces of the Light.
Siggard had a big deal to think about. Tyrael started fading with the dawn, and his last words were that Siggard had all the time of the world to consider it. "May the light go with you, my friend."
The destruction of Baron Assur in Brennon happened on year 302. It was one of the most significant victories in the early days of the Sin War. Earl Tilgar reclaimed Brennor from any surviving demons. Siggard served Earl Tilgar to help rebuild Brennor for many years. The land was free of demonic forces for at least two hundred years. Earl Tilgar founded the dynasty that would rule Entsteig until the capture and binding of the Prime Evils, six hundred years later.
As for Sarnakyle, after the death of Assur, he traveled the western lands for five years, and returned to Viz-jun in Kehjistan to lead the vizjerei into elemental magic practice. Twenty years later, he left Kehjistan once more, to wander the world, and he was never seen again. There is no record of his death. He was known in legend as the Red Wizard. The vizjerei think that on a day of great need, the legendary Red Wizard will come to their aid.
Siggard lived for about 800 years, and wandered the world fighthing many battles of the Sin War for centuries. After five hundred years, he was no longer seen, and epic tales and bard songs no longer kept record of him. No one knows if he ever found true peace, or if he grew tired of the conflict against the forces of Hell.
The following scriptures are found throughout Diablo: Demonsbane at the beginning of each chapter.
Holy Scriptures of Zakarum
And the hosts of Hell looked upon man, and swore vengeance for their defeat by the Vizjerei.
“No more will these creatures deny us,” swore the Prime Evils, “for we are greater than
they.” And thus began the Sin War.
—The Holy Scriptures of Zakarum
Alas, mourn for the open road!
For where there was once wonder and mystery,
Now there is mistrust and death.
—Jiltarian of Khanduras, Lamentations
Tenets of Zakarum
Do not embrace hatred, for it can breed only destruction.
Embrace love instead, for those who love can change the world itself.
—Gesinius of Kehjistan,Tenets of Zakarum
The Words of Horazon
How can I possibly stay? I have seen my own brother die before the gates of my city, possessed by darkness.
I have seen all that I know changed beyond recognition. I must leave, for my soul is
empty of all but sorrow.
—Velinon the Archmage, The Words of Horazon
The Lay of Arkaine
Arkaine spoke, opened his word-hoard,
“Fate will always aid when one’s bravery holds,
and when one’s cause is great and just.”
—The Lay of Arkaine
Holy Scriptures of Zakarum 2
Cherish all of Mankind, for Man has as much of the divine as the Archangels themselves.
But unlike the Heavenly spirits, Man must overcome his failings, and chief amongst them
—The Holy Scriptures of Zakarum
What is bravery? Are those who fight in a hopeless cause brave, for they die for their
beliefs? Are those who run from death brave, for it is easier to die than live? Or is
bravery instead pushing aside one’s fear to do what is necessary, be it to live or die?
—Godfrey of Westmarch, Questions
Sayings of the Northmen
It is possible to have freedom, and it is possible to have peace.
It is rare to have both.
— Dil’Gerran of Kehjistan, Sayings of the Northmen
To fight the battle is easy.
To wait for it to begin is terrifying.
—Godfrey of Westmarch, Quotations
The Craft of War
Always respect the purity of battle. For only in the heat of combat are all pretenses of
nobility and quality stripped away, replaced by survival and death.
—Leoric of Khanduras, The Craft of War
While an army can accomplish more than one man, there are times when an individual
can achieve that which a legion cannot.
—Tobarius of Kehjistan, Philosophies
Tenets of Zakarum 2
Who can see the plans of Heaven or Hell?
Do not seek to know the unknowable, for fate will
reveal all when the time is right.
—Gesinius of Kehjistan, Tenets of Zakarum
The Night of Souls
And the hosts of Hell looked upon man, and swore vengeance for their defeat by the Vizjerei. "No more will these creatures deny us," swore the Prime Evils, "for we are greater than they." And thus began the Sin War. -- The Holy Scriptures of Zakarum
Siggard startled awake, the sounds of battle still ringing in his ears, as though he had just been in the midst of the bloodshed.
Exhausted, he lay on the bank of a road, the trees on both sides obscured by a light mist illuminated by moonlight. He tried to sit up, only to have his back explode in pain. For a moment he rubbed the sore muscles and kidneys, and then he struggled to his knees.
Blinking, he wondered where he was and how he had gotten there. The road did not look familiar at all, and there were no visible landmarks. He scratched his head, trying to think, and winced for a moment when his fingernails ran over a tender spot.
Siggard was a large man, well grown, with a full brown beard. But now his usually placid gray eyes were haggard and his beard was in a tangle. He shook his head; he knew he had been at the field of Blackmarch, a shield-man in the army of Earl Edgewulf. And they had been fighting someone, but who he could not say.
Groaning, Siggard gained his feet. He would first have to find his way to the battlefield and try to rejoin the army, but what he truly wished was to rejoin his family in Bear's Hill. That would have to wait until the fighting was done, though.
Taking stock of his gear, he noticed his sword was rather more notched than the last time he remembered, and his leather jerkin and trousers were ragged but intact. Where his coat of mail had gotten to, he had no idea. His wide shield was also missing.
Cloaked in a mist drawn eerie in the moonlight, Siggard tried to get his bearings, but no matter which way he turned, he couldn't tell where Blackmarch might lie. Finally, he picked a direction and began walking.
How long he walked before he reached the gallows, Siggard could not say, though it seemed hours. Regardless, he found himself facing a fork in the road. To one side of the road there was a three-way sign, but it was too dark to read it. On the other side stood a gibbet, a decaying corpse dangling from it by a worn hemp rope.
Unbidden, the words of one of his comrades in arms came back to him. "Hanged men have angry souls, you know," old Banagar had said. "That's why they hoist them at crossroads. That way they can't find their way back for vengeance." Banagar had always been rather morbid, he reflected.
Siggard shook his head, trying to ignore the stench of putrefying flesh. The road had to lead to a town somewhere, even if it was in the twice-damned underworld itself. So all he had to do was pick a direction and follow it.
He looked up at the corpse and smiled. "I don't suppose you'd know the way to Blackmarch, eh?"
The corpse's rotting head turned and glared at him.
Siggard leapt back in shock, drawing his sword and staring at the gibbet. The body dangled, lifeless, as it had before Siggard had spoken, and as it no doubt had long before the soldier had even arrived.
Siggard felt a chill go down his spine as he looked at the corpse. He prayed silently to the gods to let him see his family again, just one more time. He didn't want to die here, trapped among lost spirits.
His sword still drawn, Siggard backed down one of the paths, finally turning once the gibbet had vanished in the mist. The ethereal fog curled around him as he walked, Siggard mouthing a silent prayer with every step.
The path twisted and turned among the trees, and the dirt crunched under Siggard's boots. For a moment he wondered if he wasn't in some endless forest of the damned, forced to wander a haunted woodland for all eternity. He shook his head; if he was to find his way out, he would have to stop thinking like that.
Faint shapes appeared in the mist ahead of him, and for a moment Siggard could make out a horse and rider, standing under a large oak tree. He blinked hard, but the figure remained. He pursed his lips; whatever it was, it wasn't a figment of his imagination, though it did seem ghostly.
As he walked forward, he saw another figure appear in the mist. The newcomer drew a blade and, before Siggard had a chance to shout a warning, plunged it into the rider. Siggard rushed forward, his sword at the ready, praying he would not have to fight, yet as he ran the two figures faded into the swirling fog. Finally, he stood under the oak, but not even a footprint suggested that anybody else had been there that night.
"If this keeps up much longer, I'll go mad," Siggard muttered. "I might even start talking to myself."
He moved away until he had a respectful distance between himself and the oak, and then began to gather deadwood. After a bit of work, he reclined under an ancient elm, watching the flames dance on his small fire until he drifted to sleep.
Siggard stood in the shield wall at Blackmarch, watching the horizon. Earl Edgewulf walked from man to man, complimenting each on their standing and promising glory ahead. For his part, Siggard just wanted to see his family again. But he knew that the bloodshed was necessary; if they weren't stopped here, the enemy would be able to roam freely in Entsteig, spreading terror and destruction.
He closed his eyes for a moment, visualizing Emilye and his newborn child. His wife's golden hair had glittered in the sunlight when they had last spoken, and her crystal eyes had been unable to contain the tears she had been trying to hide. He had told her that it would be fine, that he would be back soon.
Thunderclouds scudded above, lightning arcing between them, followed by blasts of thunder. "It looks like it's going to rain," old Banagar muttered. Siggard grimaced at the elder man, running his eyes over the gray stubble surrounding a faint mustache on the wrinkled face. Siggard mouthed a silent prayer that the rain wouldn't turn the ground into a slick wasteland.
He stood on the bare hill, an army around him, like something out of a legend of the Mage Clan Wars, with every soldier clad in a shining coat of mail. They had taken the high ground, and had cleared some of the trees from the bottom of the hill. When the enemy charged, they would be completely exposed.
"Here they come!" one of the lookouts shouted. Siggard squinted and watched the treeline, looking for any sign of the enemy. Even after Earl Edgewulf had put them into formation, he still didn't know what enemies he would be facing. From the corner of his eye he thought he could see glowing eyes staring out from the shadowy woods, but when he looked directly at them, all he saw was darkness.
Then the woods began to boil, the trees themselves twisting and turning in torment. Siggard inhaled sharply as the enemy burst out from the tortured woodland with a shrill screaming, his gut churning in terror.
None of them were even remotely human.
Some were small and doglike, carrying bloodstained axes and hatchets. Others stood tall, their muscular bodies capped with the head of a goat, what little skin showing painted with demonic symbols. And in the background there were shadowy THINGS, defying any description.
Something shook him, and a voice said, "Would you mind if I share your fire?"
Siggard sat up, finding himself back beside the forest path. A cloaked figure stood above him, and Siggard could make out a sharp, but strangely kind visage in the shadows of the cowl. The fire crackled beside the man, and in the flickering glow of the flames and the waning moonlight, Siggard noticed that the man seemed to be clad entirely in gray.
"Help yourself," Siggard said. "I'm afraid I have no food to offer."
"That is not an issue," the man said, sitting down by the fire. "I have already eaten. Perhaps I can offer you something?"
Siggard shook his head. "I'm not hungry."
"There are many restless spirits out tonight," the stranger said. "As I walked, I saw several ghosts."
"I noticed that too," Siggard stated, scratching his beard. "For a while, I wondered if I had gone to Hell."
The man chuckled. "I can assure you, this is neither Heaven nor Hell. However, it is the Night of Souls, when it is said that in some places the restless dead will return."
"And what do they come back for?" Siggard asked.
"Some come for vengeance. Some come to see their loved ones again. And for some, they just cannot rest. Sometimes it is the earth itself that brings them back, remembering the life force that once was."
Siggard shuddered. "It is unnatural."
The man laughed, his voice strangely musical. "On the contrary, it is entirely natural! Life does not simply give in to death, and the soul is more than some abstract idea. These spirits merely walk their own path, most unaware of any others around them. But there are some, particularly in the forces of Hell, who would raise the dead, animating them so that they do not hold a spirit, but are merely an automaton. I think that is what you speak of."
Siggard shook his head. "I do not know if I should be terrified or awed by what you say."
The stranger lowered his hood, revealing eyes sparkling with life and a long mane of blond hair. "I think both would be appropriate. There are more things in Heaven and Hell than any mortal man could dream."
"And how would you know all of this?" Siggard asked.
The man shrugged. "I am a wanderer; I have seen more than most would ever imagine. That is merely my nature."
"Will you give me your name?" Siggard said.
The stranger nodded. "My name is Tyrael. May I ask your name?"
Tyrael smiled. "Your trust does you credit, but be careful with whom you place it. I am safe, a traveler sworn to the light. But there are others who are sworn to darkness, and they do not reveal themselves unless they are forced to."
Tyrael leaned forward. "Tell me, friend Siggard, what brings you onto this road on this of all nights?"
Siggard shrugged. "I wish I knew."
Tyrael raised an eyebrow. "I don't understand."
"The last thing I remember is the battle at Blackmarch. If this is the Night of Souls, then that would be two days ago. I can't remember anything between lining up in the shield wall and awakening earlier this evening on the ground."
Tyrael nodded sagely. "Sometimes one will see something so horrifying that the mind will block it out, as though the soul itself cannot bear to remember it."
Siggard suddenly recalled the strange shadows behind the treeline at Blackmarch, and found himself nodding in agreement. "I guess I just want to find out what happened at Blackmarch and see my wife and child again."
Tyrael pursed his lips. "I have heard fell things about Blackmarch. I would not go there if I were you."
"I have to know what happened."
Tyrael shook his head, and for a moment Siggard thought he could see a great sadness in the man's eyes. "If you must go, then you must go. You are ten leagues south of Blackmarch as the crow flies. You can reach it in a couple of days by following the road north." He pointed back in the direction that Siggard had originally come. "If I were you, however, I would go south for one more league, and then take the fork west. It will take you back into Entsteig."
Siggard nodded. "I will consider your advice."
Tyrael smiled kindly. "That is all one could ask."
Siggard watched as the waning moon finally slid down under the treeline and the eastern sky began to brighten. "It will be dawn soon."
"It seems that the Night of Souls has come to an end at last," Tyrael mused. "All of the restless dead now return to their graves in the hopes of peace."
Siggard turned and stretched, wincing for a moment as his back ached. "I should begin my journey; I have a long walk ahead of me."
"May your feet be swift and take you into places far from harm," Tyrael said, still sitting by the dancing flames.
Siggard turned and looked at the road. "You have the tongue of a poet, my friend. I thank you for your good wishes."
But when he turned, he stood alone by the fire.
The mist was gone by the morning, burnt away by the autumn sun. Siggard carefully smothered the fire, trying to ensure that no billowing smoke revealed where he was. He still remembered the sights of the previous night with fear and awe, and wanted to ensure that he did not run into any restless spirits who did not respect the dawn.
Thinking back on the evening, he still wondered at some of what he had seen. He had never been a superstitious man, but the memories of the hanging corpse and the ghosts in the mist seemed too real to have been a vivid dream. And then there was Tyrael.
Was the stranger a ghost, come back for a friendly chat? Or was he something else? A figment from a dream, perhaps?
Siggard shook his head; at this point in time, it was useless speculation. Aside from which, he still had to find out what had happened at Blackmarch.
He checked that his sword was securely fastened to his belt, and began the journey north.
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