"End of an Age" - February 8th, 2003

The game will be at Brian's house at 5:00 PM!


Vikos slept upon the hard rock of the cave floor. The skink of his ork army hung heavy in the air around him. "This breed of ork fight like cornered owlbears, and their hearts are large...but I will never get used to that smell," Vikos thought to himself.

Suddenly the air smelled cold and crisp, like after a fresh snow. A cold wind buffeted Vikos' face, and he sat up his axe already in hand. "What wizardry is this?!?!" Vikos was shocked to see his ork army imobilized...frozen in their tracks as if time had stopped. "Be it demon or Vavasha...you had no right to approach me in this way! Show yourself!"

From the shadows a man in dark blue robes stepped into view, heavily cloaked against the cold, and his face lost in the folds of his hood. "Vikos, Thrasher of Storms...Minder of Vengeance...you have done great things in your life...your lives!" And the man's frame was wracked with quiet laughter.

Vikos tightened the grip on his axe. "Do not mock me! You seem to know me...but I do not know you...why do you bewitch my troops and vex me so?"

"I will get right to the point, elf-kin. Moves are being made, the fruition of months...no, years...of work. The Azure Kingdom will be freed of its curse...and ruled by its own. The giants driven out by devils...the devils driven out by politics...and the Empire kept out by force. The Kingdom will rule itself...at last!"

Vikos recognized a melodic quality to the voice of this strange visitor. "You are a bard...none other than Dutton Hobbs! Quit speaking in riddles, ghost. Tell me what I must do!"

"Ah, Dutton Hobbs. Yes, some have called me that. Listen to me, Vikos. Ignore the devils. They shall ignore you. Order your armies to the borders of the Azure Kingdom...defend the borders from those that encircle us. General Fazarille, and 10,000 dead will fight side by side with you if need be. When the Seal falls...if the seal falls...many will be tempted to take the Azure Kingdom for their own. The men of Cornwalsh...the Empire...the Grasslanders...even the Red Jackel and his armies, each and every one of them has borne the burden of dreams to rule the now empty lands of the Azure Kingdom. Freed from Ice...freed from Fire...the Land will bloom rich with crops, the mountains will give up much treasure to those that ask for it, and the people will grow strong and mighty upon the blue rock slopes of this land."

Vikos had sheathed his axe. "But there are devils everywhere...and the Seal of Kordasha remains in place. You talk madness...the madness of the dead, Hobbs."

The strange visitor again laughed. "I do not ask you to prepare for today...I ask you to imagine tomorrow. Much is at work you do not understand. The devils will retreat...the Seal will fall, and unless you have no sense at all...the armies of orks, and non-humans, and demi-humans, and beasts you have gathered will be at our borders to defend the Azure Kingdom from those that would steal it!"

"Let's say I do this thing you ask...what of me. Will I not accompany my troops to the borders?"

"No. You are needed on the 4th level of Baator. The fire of your anger will form a fire-break against the hell-fire. You will join the Finders in the depths...and you will assist them in their plans to bring down the Seal of Kordasha. They are close...very close...to solving the devil problem. But their efforts are balanced on the edge of a razor...I will send you to them, and you will lend your strength to theirs."

"You are quiet mad if you think I will take your advice! You are probably a devil sent to lure my troops out into the open! Why should I believe you?"

The visitor stood silently for a moment. "There is no answer I could give that would sway your belief. I shall not try to convince you...and I shall not try to decieve you. I simply ask that you listen and hear the truth in my words."

Vikos stood, his mind racing. And then he heard it...deep in his mind. A low grinding voice...a voice that rumbled so low that Vikos' teeth felt loose. "Believe him Vikos. Travel to Hell...join your friends...embrace me with the fury of battle, or the embrace of a friend. I care not. I simply wish to see you once more." The voice was Jack Skull's.

Vikos turned to the visitor. "I will give the order to my troops. They will be on the border as fast as they can run, swim, and fly. And I...I will go to Hell...."

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M. Ludwig Stinson, P.O. Box 28204, Gladstone, MO 64188