Fire Portal – Continent of Agnus
Thomas P. Walton
This is the unedited version of the book on the first discovered fire portal in the land of Gaia Saar. (Note: Gaiasaar may sometimes be interchanged with Gaia Saar, and there are some other inconsistencies).
In this first book of portal lore is the life and transformation of the subterranean humanoid creature - Vroc, the red handed. Not only did Vroc discover the first of the giants' portals on Gaia Saar... He united the forces of the underworld, while overcoming the weaknesses of his more or less human body in the infernal realms.
Fire Portal is part of the Threshaven series of fictitious history books for the 9Portals RPG portals matrix system.
Drifting in the lava realms is a series of volcanic islands. In one of these realms is the hidden chamber of the dark gods of chaos. The door to their inner sun is barred from all mortals, save for the one who possesses the chaos key. And this key remains hidden in the corrupted lands of Agnus.
To understand the key to this realm one must embark upon a journey into the academia of portals.
Nowhere else is there better to learn than in the pages of ancient Gaia Saar, our home world. As a matter of course, the evil land of Agnus lies beneath the kingdoms of old. The continent of Agnus is buried away in the infernal lands beneath the deserts and the oceans of the planet Gaia Saar.
Moreover, it was in Gaia Saar where the first metal portal was crafted by the dark dwarves, and used to call forth the saviors of our people. Inevitably, it ensued our enslavement to the cyborg mastermind, who was our great savior and tyrant. The great cyborg warlord emerged with an aura of prophecy; For he was one who did not doubt that his victory was ensured. He wore the face of our greatest warrior, and yet there was no recognition in those laser perfect eyes sweeping over his old homeland of Gaiasaar.
Alas, a final stand against our common enemy (those of the races from the Necroverse) was fought fiercely upon the shores of the peninsula of Talos. Machine-men marched against the city of Talos. Refuges from the kingdom of Gaiasaar had hidden themselves among the protectors of Talos, and the machine-god wanted his subjects returned. An unexpected player emerged on the battlefield. The necromancers and their undead warrior fired upon machine-men and the wizards of Talos without prejudice. Then, the portals landed like iron javelins in the battlefield of Talos.
These portal projectiles are described as coffin shaped mines, which exploded into hordes of nightmarish fiends. These enemies were undead, but with biomechatronic enhancements. Some were mecha reanimated by demonic entities. No weapons were effective against their might. Even the great cyborg warriors from the metal portal were destroyed; They were either smashed by necro hulks or torn from their mechanical limbs by armored fiends.
In a last attempt to save Talos, the high wizard released a prototype portal projector. Unfortunately, an anomaly occurred which altered not only the war, but the entire realm of Gaiasaar, and perhaps the rest of the universe.
A smash-portal of tremendous power opened upon the battlefield of Talos; Engulfing the necro portals first, and taking the cyborg warriors next. In its own turn, Talos was stripped of its normal space/time flow, and the lands were pulled into a darkness greater than the necroverse herself.
The towering city of the wizards was not defeated in battle, but rather lost in it.
The Orifices into Darkness
Moreover, Vroc may not have been a member of the inner races of Agnus. More likely, he was of a social scale higher than the creatures who dwell beneath the realms. Yet, his status was born into poverty upon the death of his predecessors. Reestablishing his rite to family property was a battle against the priestess of Agnus. And of course, Vroc did succeed in taking back his home… what was left of it. Part of his success in overtaking the priestess was likely the inconsistency in her rule as a demi-god in the lower realms. She taxed one the whim, and showed no integrity for promises to the dwarves to reestablish their social status in the developing cities of Agnus.
As well, and as we shall soon see, Vroc made use of all his knowledge of the varying races of the realms, and showed them how to work to accomplish a grand empire of Agnus.
In later years, Vroc became supreme ruler of all of Agnus and the realms surrounding it. He was also the inventor of the chaos key (although the dwarves also lay claim to developing the first prototype).
The importance of this chaos key will become apparent to the reader, as we explore the journals of Vroc, and his establishment in the orifices of darkness, deep beneath the sleeping cities of men.
Excerpt from: Asgandor the Sage
Deep below the dark depths of the earth, drifts the infernal continent of agnus. A sun of black energy suspended in the fathoms of pitch darkness at the planet’s core, whirling on its own axis, populated with eddies, projects electromagnetic pulses over the infernal subterra. And farther up in the earth’s crust rests the great door.
After many futile attemps to open the great door, Lark spent hosts of goblins to war upon the surface dwellers of Gaiasaar. His throne was taken over by Marcus, a tyrant who indulged in the spoils of war too much for his own good (or evil).
Alas, the conquests of the victorious Vroc, who employed powerful diviners to find a very special chamber under the caverns of the planet’s surface. It was a chamber which had been buried far below the church and state of Gaiasaar.
It was a temple for which our people shunned, for fear of its black magics hidden only by centuries of folklore. Yet, to Vroc it was the entrance to a great map room, wherein he supposedly constructed a lab of sorts, and consulted the ancient sorcery of an alien technology (apparently not intact, as we know that Vroc claims to have pieced the “[..]puzzle together from those who had fallen into the abyss”).
Vroc may have labored alone in the furnace temperatures, for he was described by the fiends who knew him as a sort of hybrid. His face and torso resembled a man in most ways, save that he was red in color, and his back was covered in dragon-like scales. Vroc’s human-like hands allowed him to work within the intricate system of alien components. His eyes were keen, so it has been told, both in the brazing furnaces of the dwarven forges, and in the darkest pits of the unfathomable, forgotten subterra (Map of Forgotten Subterra is duplicated by the sage Malar, and is displayed at the museum of portals at 9portals.com/maps for free viewing).
I have referenced the libraries of Castle Hvel, near the port of Caladrake (Map kept by the museum of 9portals.com/maps) to further inquire of the sinister devices constructed by the red hands of Vroc.
Sinister, no doubting, were the intentions of the marshal and keeper of Agnus. However, his mechanism for opening portals was not a weapon per say, but rather a key to tranverse all manner of doors—especially, where warded doors had denied entry to his ancient predecessors, who reportedly attempted such a feat without a proper key.
It was in Port Caladrake where the first of the ancient artifacts appeared. Coincidently, or arguably not, the terror known to have swallowed the good kingdom of Gaiasaar also came to Caladrake (ref. Smash-Portal, Port Caladrake, Threshaven). This artifact was given the name “Hexacube” by the sage and scribe Malar.
While I do not wish to deviate too far from our focus of study, a hexacube does require some explanation.
Given all the conjectures, and none of them agreed upon, about the design of the hexacube, I cannot say for certain that we are anywhere close to understanding how this artifact works. However, the manner in which the hexacube operates seems fairly straightforward. It operates as a chaos device, displacing order in nature.
Swarthelmr, grand magus to king Futharion of ancient Gaiasaar, had been one among the first wizards to visit the cursed shores of Port Caladrake. Swarthelmr left documentation on the chaos device in the tunneling caverns beneath mount Threshaven. The explorer Dimidi and Malar were able to interpret only certain points in Swarthelmr’s journals—most of which made reference to “All thresholds are oscillating between thought and memory […]” and “where the true doors are hidden among the great spaces of darkness […]”.
It would seem that the scholars of our fragmented worlds still agree with the interpretation of the sribes from long ago. That the hexacube is a puzzle of cosmic models balanced in all dimensions (save one, the Diablocleus, which has no opposition to evil), is by far the best theory to date.
Now, a smash portal opens when the hexacube is placed upon blessed ground. That is, the ground upon holy orders, divine houses of the bishop, and in the halls of a just ruling king. It is, however, very impractical to yield to theories of moral selectivity in anything mechanical, no matter how mysterious. Yet, there it is in practice. The hexacube detects something like divine presence, and I am not one to argue how this is accomplished. Perhaps, the hexacube negates the laws of order by means which we cannot readily understand. This is, unfortunately, one of the explanations Vroc elected to elude from his own journals.
Vroc left trails of his evil doings beneath the surface world of Caladrake in the form of journals, maps, and sculptures. As well, there are a number of manuals written by Vroc, instructing his minions in how to implement ‘foreign’ components into their primitive systems, resulting in a new kind of metallurgy altogether.
As for Vroc himself, he was quite a scribe for one who lived and died in the underworld. His journals prove that Vroc was well versed in several of the ancient languages. As a matter of some interest on the part of Vroc’s peculiar fondness for the human tongues, the lord of the molten realm employed infernal characters strictly for magical formulae, as can be readily seen in his use of English for the name of his home and places he subjugated, and then the use of demon glyphs for secretive doors on the maps. Few of the maps, however, were penned by the lord of the molten realm. Rather, the tablets among Vroc’s collection were authored by other lava fiends reigning long before him. Vroc favored parchment, as it was a rare luxury in the underworld.
At last I must allow for the studious reader to decide for his or herself as to what purpose the hexacubes played in Vroc’s schemes, and of the first appearance of an infernal door upon the surface world, and of the smash portal at Caladrake.
Without further ado, here are the journals of Agnus, inscribed by the red hand of Vroc.
~ Asgandor, Sage of Gaiasaar
Vroc the Red Handed
High Marshal and Keeper of Agnus
I lay down before you, my successor to be, this journal of my rule of Agnus. Herein you will find the keys to my domain, my empire, and to the black pit of our star. As it is typically a secret to be guarded by all upon even their death bed, my ancestors left little to reveal their secrets, an unfortunate, though often necessary stubbornness of our race.
I have a different vision.
None of our kind may reach the upper world so long as we remain ignorantly under the control of old biddies and bores, like Lord Lark and his successor. No, I believe it requires a greater deal of courage and sacrifice to achieve the dream of what lies beyond this prison.
The doors to the inner sun no longer bar my descent. Hear me truly. If you are reading me right, then you now know that its secrets are with me, and I am the door keeper, as you will soon be.
Unsurprisingly, my fool forebears missed what was in plain view. I shall list them all here for your reference and study.
We’ll start first with the Northern corridors of this great empire.
Waydo was nothing but inertia. His minions scattered about his undernourished dungeons, while he sat idling in the uneventful shadows of a crumbling kingdom. And such is the way of wantons. They are all spoon fed young bulls who grow up to be lazy cows. Watch well, as I plan to alter this reoccurring weak blood line.
Now, as to Nast, who brooded over his loot and gloated over his hordes of wealth, he was too old minded to adjust to the world of changes around his lair. And, unlike Lord Lard, he did not hire enough servants to see to his maze of prisons, wherein the rot of prisoners drove away the underpaid guards—or killed them.
Nast spent hordes of gold to give his son a lavish mansion, at the expense of generations to come (for they are certainly paying for it now, as I am seeing to this personally). Again, we have the wanton at work, or lack thereof. Old Nast who loved his pride even more than his gold was broke long before he lived to see the death of his heir, and the defiling of his mansions (obviously by his own subjects).
Nast often complained that his subjects obnoxiously ransacked his libraries, and were too stupid to do any useful work in his dungeons. (Obviously he had never heard of goblins, I suppose. They are small, but full of energy. To ensure they do their work, a troll with no greater ambition than to smack around smaller creatures will suffice as a supervisor and overseer of their labors).
To the east are the great mountainous peaks of the underworld, rising from the darkest pits, and looming over Agnus. At the pinnacle of the greatest zenith, in a lofty palace dwells Lord Asp. Great magic was at one time sealed away in the high darkness of his lair. Of course, now such magic is available in my own libraries. You must be a wise one to be marshal here.
Study these ancestors well. Their mistakes will not be tolerated if you repeat them.
My own beginnings were on the southern slopes of Agnus, deep down in the molten maze of the lava realm. The secrets of fire and metallurgy were my trade in the days of my youth, though I hated that existence much, and preferred to steal away into the forbidden libraries of the sorceress Magma Prima, who was also a priestess of Agnus. Naturally, and in time, I was caught. It was by the hand of the priestess herself that I was transformed into this creature I am now. Or perhaps it would be fair to say that she only pushed me in the right direction. In to the fiery lake I fell back from Magma Prima. Engulfed in pain and agony, I rolled in a whirlpool of fire, certain that my death would be inevitable. It was at that moment that I recalled the symbols I saw within the infernal book, as I saw before my eyes my meaningless life cast into a ribbon of infinite light, scorching hot light, fire, lava.
I emerged from the slopes of Agnus, slithering on my belly. For many hours I lay, unable to do anything, but I would not die. In me, and of me, the fire burned, and I breathed from it new life. Something I could not understand had transpired in the hours of my death. My flesh was intact! I saw upon me scales, and reddened skin, deeper like crimson, and tougher than the reddish skins of my fiendish cousins, who loved their little horns and tails. I had no tail, nor had I ever grown horns. This set me aside as different from other children of my kind. Yet, now I was a monster to anyone who saw me.
Gloating over me was a watery serpent with bipedal extensions, much like legs and arms. His name was Nast, King of the Watery pools of Agnus. My punishment from the witch, he said, unintentionally separated me from the limitations of the other people of my treacherous race. Now, he called me Salamandaar. (He meant Salamander). His tongue hissed wildly, so that I did not at first believe anything he said. I thought that he meant to eat me. But, to my surprise, his only true intention was to see what manner of creature I would transform into. Nast knew the symbols in my mind as I was thinking them in that pool of death. He could sense those thoughts. I wondered why that, and also why I did not feel any more pain.
Far, far more ancient was this king of Agnus than the witch who cast me into the molten lake. He was a descendent, or such was the story he told, of the ancient gods of Chaos. I welcomed his story nearly as much as the good belly full of lizard stew, and mushroom brew (liken to beer). He explained that his people were not welcome by the priestess of Agnus, who was a descendent of the human race, and a hybrid of devils. Then, Nast went on to talk about my situation.
I had been blessed by the dark woman... unintentionally.
With Lord Nast’s blessings of the ancient gods, I left his hospitality to find and meet all the other ruling races beneath the earth. My purpose was to study them all. I would know, as I now do, all their passions, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. While I could not know every heart, I could learn much more about their various species as a whole. Such was taboo for hybrid humans. That is, we were not allowed, by order of the priestess, to associate or entreat creatures of other creeds or races. I was, as a matter of fact, now one of those “other” creeds.
I became known as Salamandaar to Nast, and Vroc to the rest of the realms. My given name at birth was lost to an old life I no longer had. I was free of it, but it also meant that I had to work really hard to find a new place in the hell we called Agnus.
The neglected buzzers, as they were ridiculed by other races, were a far better organized culture and species than the humanoids and goblinoids of the known sectors of Agnus. The strongest and hottest winds of the deadly corridors trailing out of Agnus did not impede the travel of Buzzers. So, I bent myself on learning their language, which consisted of vibrations which could be partially replicated through nasal overtones, and mentally focusing on an image, and the intent of communication.
Buzzers could not harm my armored skin, and were generally not threatened by me. So, I employed buzzers to do a great work in reducing the police force of Asp (who oversaw from a distance all the ill-workings of the priestess Magma Prima). Then, we took Priestess Magma Prima by surprise. Interrogating her was easy, once my buzzers had deployed their scouts to find and execute her acolytes.
What I had found was that the priestess had watched over my family since I was a tiny boy. I was always interested in drawings, constructing things, and reading books that I was not supposed to touch. I was curious. But it was my potential which burned Prima Magma’s mind. To think that a male of my species could learn lore was not allowed in her world.
I’d heard enough. I sent her out the door, with a minute head start for the lava. “The seas or the bees,” I told her. Then, after ten seconds out the door, I motioned to the buzzers to take her out. She chose the lava after-all. But, it was not her fate to rise again as it had been for me.
Soon, goblins tallied over to my lead. I had a small band to work with. They needed a new lair, and I needed a base to work out my plans. So, I returned to the library which had been denied to me. I poured through books for three nights straight. In the meantime, I sent my buzzers to spy on the east, and to report back to me what they had found out about old Asp, lurking up there in the towering spires of darkness. No doubt, he would soon realize that his priestess was no longer in this hell.
Salamanders slithered to my home in the south. I was welcomed by them. A sign from Nast, that the fiery realms were now mine by rite of conquest. I sent goblins to repair his machinery in the brewery as a sign of good faith, and a return for his favor.
Many years have passed. Gold is a great motivator, even in this hell. Even with all progress in magic acquired from my new library, not much societal progress may be made without gold. I had to make my move to procure gold from Nast, if I were to take my forces to meet the high dark king, Asp.
I ventured west to claim the treasures of old Nast. I would need funds to hire working trolls. Only trolls were strong enough to heave great rocks. More goblins would be needed for their skill is enough to do real craft work. There would be mason work to do for our lairs in the south of Agnus.
I came upon the western slopes, and into the cannals of Nast. In the damp caverns ahead, I found the elder water serpent, with long tendrils hanging over his saber-filled mouth. Nast heard my approach, even with a stealth spell (I had to practice on someone). He laughed when he saw me.
“You’re too late, Salmannndaaar,” He roared with amusement. But he was gravely wounded. A lance nailed the old lizard to the cobbled stone floor, where I thought he was sleeping at first sight. Obviously, he would never rise from where he lay.
I inquired, but Nast silenced me. “Go there. To the end of Agnus, and beyond. It doesn’t really matter. You cannot stop the giants. Not with a band of goblins, or with men well armed could you restore the treasury,” hissed Nast.
I had no intention at that moment of restoring the treasury. The old schnorer of the west kingdom had hired too few guards for his lair, and none for his treasury—lest he trust his own kind. None-the-less, I promised to find the thieving giants, and restore the glory of Nast. To this, the elder serpent thanked me. And then gave me warning, that the giants were not so unknowledgeable of the old gods, though the giants themselves were more feeble-minded than ancient lizards. Hm. I’m not sure how I’m to figure myself into that equation, but I guess that’s good for old lizards.
After Nast passed out from loss of blood, I left two goblins to guard over his body, and stop anyone who tries to enter into his lair. As for myself, I stole into his library. Just as I had suspected, the giants were not looters of literature. They probably could not read the books. And that was just as well. I spent about half an hour rummaging through titles in the library. To my surprise, I could read them. One title caught my eye in particular. It was a red skinned book which lay closed on an ornamented mantle. “Enter the Salamander” I read the title to myself, nearly laughing myself to tears.
Dragging over a very big, cushion chair up to the old lizard’s desk (which was covered in so much dust over the centuries he’d spent gloating over his treasury), I found myself surprisingly lost within the pages of a fairy tale for—yep, you guessed it—lizard folk.
“Frizzy and Zippy the lizard twins got lost in the swamp one night. They were happily skimming along the surface of the waters when a whirlpool pulled the young twins down into darkness”. Oh, I guess it’s curtains for them, I thought. But, no. Not yet.
“They found themselves in a lake of fire!” Yeah, that’s sounds familiar to me, too, I thought. “There, just beyond the highest reaches of the greatest mountains in the realm was a black moon looming over the realm.”
That’s when I stopped and marked the page in the book. I looked around on the mantel for other books, but there were none. Sweeping aside maps on the desk revealed accounting books for Nast’s treasury.
Reading through the accounting books, I discovered that Nast had far more gold than could have been carried away by a band of giants. There must have been an army. And yet, they did not leave the place to burn. Giants, perhaps, were too stupid to burn the record books.
So, it was with a bundle of accounting books, and a fairy-tale story that I set my way north, following the giants’ trail.
From what I gathered in the Salamander book, the moon was a variant on a story about the dark sun. I knew of this, as I’d read books on my ancestors who had ruled Agnus long before Magma Prima had meddled into its politics. Funny, I didn’t realize Agnus required politics.
I returned to where I last left Lord Nast. The goblins had begun playing with his tenuous fu-man-chu. Knock that off! Call for the Buzzers. Return to this library when you’ve completed your task.
Buzzers were excellent trackers. I would find the giants soon. But, I’d need to be prepared to battle them. If that would be entirely necessary.
We followed the giants.
Buzzers reported giants were hording the treasuer—mounds of it—in a chamber hidden within the ancient caverns to the north. Once, long ago, these passages were traversed by an older race, a darker species than our own. They were said to be devils from the great spaces between worlds. That didn’t surprise me.
In any event, we traveled along the ancient corridors. Alcoves were along the walls at intervals of ten feet or so, and sometimes at thirty feet. It was random, apparently having no particular pattern. The craftsmanship was roughly the work of humanoid beings of a very primitive age.
How beings who dwell between the great spaces between planets can’t manage to make modern work of their homes is beyond me. But, I digress.
The way was a long stretch of corridor, an the sheer randomness of recesses made any navigation aggravating.
At every turn my goblins jumped or squealed, half expecting for a monster to leap out at them.
Laughing to myself, I considered that we were all monsters afraid of… well, other monsters.
The little green people didn’t make much sense. But, then, I didn’t need them to. They just needed to be handy with their bows and spears, and do whatever I tell them to. And so far they had.
At length we encamped on a slope overlooking a sea of lava. Beautiful! It was the only opening returning to the familiar element of my home. I took up my seat upon a smooth stone slab, and I watched the green creatures prepare camp. They worked without much fuss, save for a few arguments here and there, usually ending in one or two goblins on the end of a spear point.
Halfway into our meal, a scout returned in an excited frenzy. I had become accustomed to their hypersensitivity and anxiety, but the creature’s message was unmistakable. There, just further than we had settled down, was a particularly airy alcove, which hid behind some great rock a narrow cave.
My scout had ventured through the cave, finding in it an opening into the realm of the giants.
At last, I thought. Our scouts were keen on the scent of the giants. We traveled not in vain, but were on the pursuit of glory and wealth unimaginable.
A fire kindled in my dark heart. I had never felt shrill joy in the pursuit of destiny as I had this fine venture. Our party left campfire burning, and food untouched. The pursuit of greed drove us through the cave, and into the heart of the giant’s domain.
The way was jagged, and we traveled in a cramped line. Goblins had less trouble slipping between the rocks than I, but desire for gold encouraged my scaly bulk to press harder after the scouts. The hot and humid passage made breathing difficult for me alone. Despite my adapted form for heat and fire, moisture was a fatal enemy.
I was nearly willing to give up the jaggy passage, and follow the long way around which the giants must have taken (They certainly could not have squeezed their large bodies through this narrow pass of rock and earth). Then, Slyde, our best scout, called back that he had reached the open chamber on the other side of the rock pass. That was the place we needed to go in order to make a map of the enemy’s domain.
Emerging from the crevice of wet rock, I inhaled the dry and fiery air of the fire giant’s country. Little did I know that I would be discovering something here worth all the gold in the nine realms.
Slyde approached me, hunching in a crude gesture which could only pass as a goblin courtesy. “We stand on a slope overlooking the giant king,” Slyde whispered.
By Slyde’s statement I assumed our scout meant the kingdom of the giants was under and ahead. Rather the opposite was true—and much to our great advantage. Never had luck been so overflowing in my favor, not in any job preceding this day, nor ever after.
I drew my self over the edge of the slope, and took a shocking look below. There, in the openness of great fires, and seated on a throne of pure tungsten and platinum, laid the entire weight of the law of the land. The king himself was directly underneath our little band of goblins.
Two guards patrolled the outer halls, as our scout was able to bypass the giant king’s chamber through a crevice between the masonry on a wall damaged by battles long ago. It was at this point that we decided our best bet was a full on assault. The guards first.
Clusk was the strongest fighter of the goblins, and bigger than all of them. His strength was, however, no match for the giants—for they were indeed fire giants, and of great towering height, clad in plated armor, and well armed. “One, he has mighty spear, and the other a great sword,” Slyde cringed. His tiny and repulsive form shook violently at the thought of a full frontal assault on any of the giants below.
Grimzool and Clusk were unafraid, or at least did not show any sign of it visible to anyone. Goblins could smell fear, and so their stout appearance did very little to ensure a successful attack on the giants.
I needed more time to think. It was best to return to our camp, grab our things, and bring them back into the tunnel. I sent a pair of goblins, Wobbles and Jerry to the mouth of the cavern, with instructions to hide our camp supplies. They would bring up our equipment.
We made ropes of great length from the tents. Then, we tied stones to the ropes, forming a leverage of weight that could be used to ensnare a net from a height. The plan was to entangle the king of the giants in a net, dive upon him, and then drive our spears deep as possible into his ruddy flesh.
No one liked this idea, as was apparent by the looks upon their faces. But, with a whip, there’s a way. Nothing beats a goblin into shape like hard work.
I went over each step of my plan, ensuring that our warriors understood what to do. The weaker goblins were busy with the project of constructing two great nets. One, after-all, was intended for the king. And he was much, much bigger than the guards.
As I reflect back on this glorious day, I cannot recall having felt even an inch of fear in the presence of the king of the fire giants. This, perhaps, was the oddest thing about our adventure into the fiery lands of the giants. Somehow, my transformation into the salamander king had rid me of my former weaknesses. What little humanoid remained in this body was quietly withdrawn from my mind.
All that mattered was the gold. It must be acquired, and with as little loss as possible to myself. For, I could not carry the gold back to my lair alone; Not even the great strength which had grown in my reptilian transformation could allow me to carry this much gold. And what is more, well, there was far more gold and gems here than the old water dragon could possibly have stored in his lair in a hundred years of taxing his minions.
A threshold existed in this land, and was buried in the technology of ancients who were far older than the fire giants themselves—But, back to the king of their ilk.
He was immensely huge! Far greater in size and form than I had assessed from my lofty surveillance of his lair.
Great arms, like those of a full grown red dragon hefted a mighty club. Unfortunately, he could not break free of our webs of spider’s silk, a rare net crafted by these goblins alone.
We were upon him, when we heard the commotion from the outer halls. One of the giants had fallen ensnared in our first team of netters. A struggle ensued.
No matter! I forced retreat out of my mind, and stared the mountainous warrior in his bulky, pink and red eyes. “Your loot is plundered, king!” I spat in his ruddy face.
At this, the king rose with a fierce force, sending goblin spearmen clattering to the floor in their chain mesh armor. I held the medallion from the king’s neck as he rose, and poised myself to jump to a fighting stance at the ground level. My scabbard came, and it left a gash in the king’s chest. I leapt out and away, finding my footing quickly.
As the doors flew open behind me, I leapt again with lizard reflexes, landing away from the charge of both the king and the guard from outside.
The guard had two goblins stuck to his boot—poor Crusk, to end in that horrid way, as the scuff under a giant’s boot. Unfortunately, his maddening charge was met by the full force of the king’s mace, bashing the guard’s helmet clean off his head.
As the corpse fell to the ground, my legs moved like a tiger in the heat of the hunt, and threw my body and sword into the throat of the astonished king.
The remaining goblins quickly fell upon the giant as his life drained away from him into the floor grating.
Victory! The chamber was ours! But, the gold had yet to be won.
It was during our pillage—for it never hurts to increase a goblin’s morale by greedy looting—that I became aware of the particular designs on the amulet around the king’s bloodied throat. It was a seal, or rather a pentacle. With some labor, I managed to heave it from the giant’s corpse.
While my goblins looted the throne room and pillaged the wine wracks, I managed to find the king’s private study. I never realized giants had the audacity for learning books. But, then again, these were fire giants, and not the fat and ugly ogre lineage of their lesser brethren.
In the study of the king I found books too big to lift in one hand, and nearly impossible in two of my own claws. However, I was able to establish a reasonable place to set the journals of the king upon a stone cut table, and prop myself upon his great chair with many fine cushions.
A threshold existed in this lair, read one passage. It was a gate to other planes of fire, both on this planet, and—more interestingly—to worlds far across the vastness of the cosmos. Truly? I did wonder if these were mere tales I read. Yet, further reading revealed the keys necessary to unlock the doors between worlds. The great amulet around my neck, which once was the king’s symbol of power, was unmistakably the seal to this gate.
Countless days lay ahead, and small scale wars broke out between the bewildered giants. Who was to be their new king? How had the king fallen so? Where were the perpetrators?
Descend upon the remnants of the lost kingdom we needn’t have done. All that remained was the gate.
Days in travel it took, for the only way to bypass the hordes of giants flailing and chopping each other to pieces, was to scale the highest walls of rock, and travel hidden between crevices where the earth offered such shelter.
The gate was before us sooner than we had imagined. No one stood in our way. Loot over our shoulders, and packs stuffed to the max with riches, spells, and pendants of immeasurable value, our campaign neared the end of its journey.
I held out the amulet of the king, and the gate opened into a blazing vortex. A portal! No mere gate between worlds. A real portal between fiery realms. I focused on my desired destination, as the goblins watched the gears move in the arch above the threshold.
Heavy boots thundered the ground, and the roar of the giants followed. They were advancing, but I could not break my concentration until the spells was finished.
The portal opened to the slopes of Vroc, my homeland.
Madly, my monstrous party dashed through the portal, nearly losing two goblins to the slashing of swords and the piercing of titan spears.
It was done. The portal opened only for the possessor of the amulet and his companions. We were free of the giants—for the time being, anyway.
Eventually, a successor to the kingdom would be chosen. The next king of the fire giants would raise an army to march upon the slopes of Agnus, seeking the amulet of their fallen king.
I made it a promise that the giants would not succeed in their plight against Agnus. And, so we went to work, rebuilding the first front against the giants, which was the lair of the old water dragon. Boobie trapped, and rigged with nests of wasps, and other nasty creatures, we left the western slopes for the warmth of the southern slopes of Agnus, which I later had renamed to the Slopes of Vroc, in honor of my total reign of the continent of Agnus.
The biggest problem of ruling Agnus was the need for constant micromanagement. Specifically, I required access to a secret room, aloft the peaks of the wind monster, Lord Asp!
I needed to find him. And whence I did, and had done away with him, I required lengthy hours of study in his secret room, filled to the ceilings in a clutter of ancient and alien technology. This, as a matter of course, meant that I’d spend time away from my homeland. This presented a problem, as goblins were unable to govern themselves for too long if left without encouragement.
New minions were raised from the corpses of the dead clerics. These I called forth as my lich kings, to govern and rule the watery realm of the dead Lord Nast.
In my own abode, I hired on dark elves to oversee the orcs, who then in-turn supervised the lowly goblins.
Mountain trolls held the gates and tunnel trolls (much smaller than their ogre-sized cousins) labored in factories to build new weaponry for my army of response to the threat of the fire giants.
::: At the Tower of Lord Asp :::
Darkness like I’d never seen before shrouded the way up to the abode of the ancient monster, Lord Asp. Never a sting of light pierced that pitch blackness that I can recall. The light of my torch, and the glow of the sorcerer’s scepter tied to my sash, kept a tight oval of light around my scaled body. It was as if the very darkness ate the light from my torch, and siphoned the magic from my scepter.
The climb took weeks. In all that time, I was able to find food in small ponds, wherein swam eyeless fish, or in muddied holes where stark white lizards slithered.
At the final platform of rock, there stood the gate before the ancient steps ascending high into the lair of Lord Asp.
“I, Lord Vroc, and King of Agnus, call an audience with the ancient of subterranean storms, Lord Asp, who shall open this wrought iron gate. The king of Agnus is not barred from any domain residing of Lord Vroc,” I called with all the power in my voice, uncertain if the ancient marshal of this loft would hear my words.
I looked back at the rock I’d ascended, considering the way back. It was then that the gate swung on hinges so old that the gate seemed to whine as if complaining in its awakening from an ancient slumber.
The gates shut behind me, issuing a groan of grinding of iron against rock. Up was the only way to go, and so I made my up the stone steps.
Steps ended abruptly at a black door, which I easily opened and shut behind me the immense darkness. As my torch burned out, my scepter remained the only light with me in this dark place high above all the fiery lands of Agnus.
As I progressed through the winding spiral of halls, a source of light filled a chamber at the center of the spiral. Entering this room, I looked from side to side, expecting an ambush or some opposition to my intrusion. But, I found none.
What instead I found was a vast chamber of secret things, alien machinery, and ancient artifacts. The ceiling above was a black gem, bigger than the room, as if mined on a planet of giants. Through it, came a dark face, the face of Asp. And its ghost uttered a message.
“Long has my ancient body lay dead. My ghost greets you to my palace, Lord Vroc. Though you are not yet the true ruler of Agnus, I pardon your intrusion,” Asp’s ghost hissed from the high ceiling.
I retorted, “But, I am the king of Agnus, recognized by the races of the lower realms as their ruler.”
“Not until all fire giants are driven from Agnus, will you be the true ruler of all this subterranean world,” Insisted Asp.
At length, I was given permission to use the abode of Asp, who no longer lived there. All his ancient books, great machinery, and relics from ages long forgotten or altogether unknown, was mine.
With the power of ancient artifacts, and armed with a technology unchallenged in both the subterranean realms of salamanders and the surface worlds of humans, I discovered the first true Fire Portal—a portal that existed not just between fiery realms, but which could transport ‘any’ creature from a fire realm to a surface world in the blink of an eye. What was needed was the chaos technology of the ancient race of giants. With this power, the first chaos node was created by the hands of trolls in my factories. The striking of the trolls’ hammers range far and wide in the subterranean world of Agnus—my home and stead.
~ End of Book One