|Favorite Wonder:||Prophecy of Ragnarok|
The Age of Ice was a paradise compared to what I endured. As men huddled in frozen caves, and the Bannor raced across the plains of ash in Agares hell I was held underneath the fractured surface of Camulos' hell. Camulos is the God of War, and his hell is the proving ground for new demons. Here they learn the arts of chaotic battle in the unending wars that rage across its surface. The souls, once moral, become desensitized to feeling and inflicting pain. Then they begin to delight in it, cruelly destroying anyone weaker than them across the volcanic terrain.
Beneath the wars, in pits regularly opened or consumed by the violent earthquakes that shake the world, are the vast prisons where the victims of war are kept. I had suffered through the mire of Mulcarn, passed the trials of Mammon's great city but I was a quick victim to violence of this realm. Torturers usually want something from their victims, secrets, cooperation or conversion. But here they subjected us to anguish only to enjoy our suffering. And in a world without the escape of death, there was no hope of an end to the torment. You bleed and scream for centuries. The eruptions occasionally open new tunnels in the prisons, collapsing walls allow the imprisoned to flee to the world's surface and escape their torment for a time. After one of these I fled into wastes, where the sand cut through exposed flesh like small shards of glass. I huddled beneath the hide of a pit beast and gripped one of the back spikes from the beast as a crude weapon. My magic failed me in hell. I traced a rune in the sand, a fire sign with broken bindings and willed it alive. A faint flame flickered within it. When I was alive I could have summoned torrents of fire out of the rune, I could have assaulted a city with it. Now it only flickered weakly. Howls interrupted my concentration. Demons avoided battles in the wastes, but hunters lead by hellhounds would come through looking for those, like myself, that sought refuge here. I brushed away the rune and started deeper into the wastes. By they were faster than I was and the hound could smell me. They didn't follow scent like moral dogs, they could smell fear and there was no escaping them. As I scrambled across another ridge a darkened figure rushed at me, spear in hand. He was emaciated, weak, and I easily knocked the spear aside. I pulled the man to the ground, he was trembling, and whispered into his ear. "You will be okay" I lied, "I won't hurt you, but we have to kill the hound that is coming for us." He didn't speak, but his eyes stared into my face, trying to find some compassion. It was a rare commodity in this world. "Hide under the ridge. I ordered, pushing him into position. "When the hound comes be ready with your spear and we will attack it together." He hid under the ridge and I slipped away. A few minutes later the hound stopped howling, it was close. The hound was drawn to the figures fear as I had suspected. I watched as it walked up to the top of the ridge and stopped to sniff and listen. Even I could sense the man's fear, I knew it was like a beacon to the hound. In one smooth movement the hound leapt off the ridge and in front of the man, he called for my help as he braced his spear. I ignored him as the hound attacked, tearing quickly into the man. I wasn't interested in the hound or the man. I waited until I saw him. A black figure wreathed in violet flames, the hunter following after the hound. As he passed I leapt out, shoving the spike into the hunters neck. The sound he made was a mix of pleasure and pain, the scream of a sadist in the ecstasy of mutilation. He was stronger than I suspected, and the spike jutting from his neck didn't slow him at all. He lifted one arm and tossed me aside. I rolled and came to my feet to see him ready for his next attack. The hound dragged the body of the man back towards us, and the deep red eyes of the rest of the hellhound pack came out of the wastes. There was at least a dozen of them. The hunter didn't bother removing the spike from his neck. A crow passed over us. Seeing it in hell was as unusual as seeing a demon flying by in Erebus. But the effect on the hunter and his hounds was immediate. They fled in all directions, even leaving the prize of the wizened man behind. The crow landed. It was large for a crow but not unnaturally so. It clawed at the ground and hopped about ignoring me. I had lost the spike and without any sort of weapon I knew I was helpless. Remembering the man's spear I started to slip by, to avoid the crow and get to base of the ridge where the hellhound and the man fought. Then I noticed what the crow had scratched. It was a fire rune with broken bindings. The crow looked at me for the first time. It was exactly like the rune I had made, perfectly formed. I walked closer and the crow crooked its head watching me. I took a breath and reached out to the rune and I immediately felt the power well up inside of me. Balefire flooded out of the rune in great wild gouts. It flowed out between the hills of the wastes, down along the ridge and all around me. At the rune itself it reached up like a fountain of yellow fire, a bright finger reaching into the sky. This was the power I once had. Let the hunters come, let them bring their packs of hellhounds, the torturers and the war machines of hell. I will purge this horrific world. The crow was gone. In its place, floating weightless just above the ground was a beautiful woman wearing purple robes. The robes floated about her in a maze of folds that hid her and offered tantalizing glimpses of her perfect pale skin. Half of an obsidian mask covered the left side of her face. On the right her lips were full and red, her eyes matched the deep purple of her robes. "To long have you dwelled in these lands." The fire collapsed back into the rune. I felt the power slip from me and I gasped and fell to my knees in an effort to keep hold of it. But it was pulled from me and I was weak again. I screamed, it was as cruel as anything I had suffered here. "Give it back." I threatened, realizing that I didn't have a weapon. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. Her body twisted and she expanded, or the world shrank, until she filled the sky and her robes surrounded me. "I am Ceridwen" she said and the ground rumbled with her voice, "and I can drop you into worlds far worse than this one. If you wish to be free you will worship me, for I am the only one who can break your chains." And I fell to the ground and worshipped her.
I had forgotten how beautiful creation was, or I had paid little attention. The island I walked across was ripe and lush. There were no land animals on it, just brightly colored birds that cried and fluttered away in annoyance as I walked by.
A vast well stood at the center of the island. Far enough across that a galleon could have been dropped down it and it was deeper than the world. The rocks around it appeared to be old granite, but I knew that rock was the foundation of creation and was much stronger than simple granite. There were no animals here. I began walking around the well. Every few feet I stopped to trace a rune on the rock. Though it seemed a minor effect, and I was more powerful than I had ever been in life, it took all of my willpower to mar the rock. Between runes I rested and went over Ceridwen's demands, making sure each step was done exactly as she described. By the time I had walked the entire way around it was well into the night. I stood on the last rock ready to trace the final rune. But before that I drew silver letters on a black cloth, cast and then placed the cloth over my eyes. Through it I saw the spirit world. Even now spirits of the dead walked across the island and threw themselves into the well, passing from this world to the world beyond. Then I completed the final rune. In a screeching that brought back painful memories of Camulos's hell the rock began to move together. The well began to close. Confused spirits rushed toward the well, seeing their afterlife being stolen from them and from within the well I heard the sound of feathers. A cold wind came up out of the well and I saw a figure flying up at me from the wells depths. A woman with a cloth over her eyes much as mine, and ragged bands woven around her arms and into a tattered dress. She had dark wings and pale ivory skin. She was like moonlight filtered through a canopy of branches. But she was not fast enough. I reached out and pulled all of the surrounding spirits towards me, funneling them all into the final rune that was being sketched over the closing rocks surface. A barrier held fast, a great mirror that would send those who tried to pass through it back, a transformation that would bind the spirits that passed through it into unholy forms. The spirits powered the rune, they were trapped within it. They howled and fought the rune but they could not escape. To test the spell I walked to a nearby apple tree, since the birds didn't come this close to the well its fruit was untouched. But it was early in the year and it only had tiny green apples hanging from its branches. I traced a rune of withering on its trunk and the tree immediately shriveled and died. The tiny apples fell from the branches as the branches thinned and weakened. For a moment nothing happened, and then the tree filled out again. Not to its original height, as it remained dark and warped by the spell, but it was not completely dead. On its branches new small fruit blossomed, but this time they were a deep brownish red and they beat slowly. My mission had begun. My deal with Ceridwen, to bring Armageddon to creation starts here. If I fail I will return to the eternal prison of hell, and even if it means destroying the world I will never again suffer hells torments.