• Published 10th Oct 2020
  • 6,735 Views, 111 Comments

Doom Slayer - Thule117

Lands charred black, and rivers boiled, crops and wells alike despoiled, moutains leveled, forests felled, footprints of. . . the Beast of Hell.

  • ...

Mercy and Madness

Author's Note:

Greetings everyone, Thule117 here just wanting to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. I know the holidays will be a bit lonelier this year because of the virus, but remember that as long as the night may grow, the dawn will be all the more glorious for it. Stay safe, remember to wear a mask, and keep yourselves healthy. As always I wish to give special thanks to my editor Bronyshot2020 for his stellar work on this chapter.

Blessings of the Seraphim upon you all. And now, on with the chapter. . . .

Twilight stared at the dead city with a mixture of shock and horror. It might once have been impressive, a city built atop a massive sandstone stack of rock, separated millions of years ago from the nearby cliff by erosion. In its heyday, positioned with the endless shifting desert dunes behind it, it would have been a shining beacon of civilization, amid a land of desiccation and death. Now however, that glory was likely gone forever. The stack had been dangerously undermined by the appearance of deep cracks and fissures in the superstructure, the topmost part appearing almost entirely reduced to gravel. While the now scorched and blackened nubs of what had likely been a pair of smaller satellite stacks, had been utterly erased by heat and explosive force.

As for the city itself, it was little more than rubble and ash. Buildings that had once clung to the sides of the stack in an ascending spiral, were either smouldering piles of charcoal, or imploded adobe wrecks. In some places, there were only the remains of broken supports hammered into the stack's side, silent testimony to the homes and businesses that had once been suspended there. The primary street leading up the stack, was all but erased. Across its surface, Twilight noted countless craters and pockmarks caused by explosive detonations and shrapnel. Cracks and fissures big enough to put her hoof through, extended across the ground from the craters like the roots of an invisible tree, running deep into the stone beneath. While scorch marks and the crackle of still smouldering fires, told of entire sections of the city's housing consumed by flame. And of course, everywhere, there were the bodies.

Corpses, dismembered, or with clear signs of horrific trauma, littered the remains of the streets and alleys in their hundreds. Most had been torn apart by gunfire or explosions, but others had been buried beneath the collapsing rubble of buildings, or trampled to death by their frantically fleeing fellows. Worse than that however, were the corpses whom had suffered the Doom Slayer's personal touch. Limbs pulled free from bloody sockets, skulls crushed by unimaginable force, guts and individual organs pulled from bellies and chests. Formerly living beings, ripped and torn apart by an unholy power, driven by an all consuming wrath. Congealing blood covered the ground like an obscene red carpet, and the charnel stench of corpses just starting to rot, was overpowering. What had once been a realm of life and commerce, had become a grotesque sepulchral ruin.

There was a time in her life, when Twilight would have asked how a single being could possibly destroy an entire city in less than a day, especially after running nonstop through the wastes for nearly twenty four hours straight. However, she knew better now. The Doom Slayer was a being who, even as a mortal stallion, had slain gods, monsters, and entire armies of supernatural killers. A city full of ordinary civilians didn't stand a chance.

"Kludgetown." Celestia declared somberly. "A wretched hive of scum and villainy. . . but it didn't deserve this." Luna shook her head, speaking in a voice heavy with sorrow.

"Perhaps not, but at least we can take solace in the knowledge that no truly innocent lives were lost." Twilight looked at Luna aghast.

"What are you talking about?! What about the families?! What about the foals and-" Luna cut Twilight off with an upraised hoof.

"I can assure you Twilight, nocreature would ever seek to raise a family here. Few would even deign to live here, were it not one of the few places in the world that criminals could do so without fear of the law. This was a city, by and for, those without scruples or morals. If you are unconvinced, then consider, Kludgetown's unofficial motto was: 'Everything has its price.' that included lives." Twilight's objections died in her throat at that. Yet, she still couldn't help but look over the ruin of the city with genuine sadness. How many of these supposed criminals might have changed their ways if given a chance? Even if only a single villain might have been turned, the knowledge that that chance to change had been taken from them forever, caused a sharp pain in Twilight's heart.

"I will check for survivors." Celestia declared, as, with a snap of her wings, she was propelled high into the air. Flying up to hover over the city, Celestia lit her horn. A moment later, an expanding nova of light particles washed over the entire city. With her eyes closed, Celestia focused, searching for even the faintest trace of life. All at once, her eyes flew open, as she pointed a hoof. "THERE!!" She shouted, Luna and Twilight nodded, as they took to the air, converging on the spot Celestia had indicated. Lit by a faint halo of light from Celestia's spell, an unconscious anthropomorphic cat, lay half buried in the rubble of a collapsed alley. Working quickly, Luna and Twilight cleared away the debris, as Celestia landed nearby.

"Be careful." Luna warned, as Twilight began to levitate the unconscious body. "He appears badly hurt." Luna was not exaggerating. Half of the creature's face, and a large chunk of his shoulder and neck, were covered in severe burns. The fur singed away, with the skin lightly charred and blistered, as it wept fluid. One arm hung at an awkward angle, clearly broken, and with the flesh beneath his fur badly bruised. His long tail twitched fitfully, while dust and blood stained his fur and the remains of the coat he was wearing, his body laboring for breath, as the three princesses carried him to safety. Twilight focused, as she reviewed every medical text she had ever read in her head. Her voice clipped and efficient as she gave instructions.

"I'll need clean bandages, water, and something to use as disinfectant. Also, something to splint his arm and make a cast." Celestia and Luna nodded as they flew off to find the needed supplies. Meanwhile, a pair of striking green eyes cracked open. A voice, barely audible through a parched and dusty throat, spoke in a wheezing tone.

"Am I dead?" Capper asked, struggling to focus the image of what he, at that moment, could only describe as: a purple angel.

"Not yet." The angel replied, her voice so beautiful Capper nearly started crying. "Now rest, my friends and I are here to help." Capper felt a bolt of terror course through him, as he recalled the horror that had come to Kludgetown.

"Forget. . . me! Run!! The monster. . . it will kill you! It came. . . it came to destroy us all! To punish us for our sins!" The angel's face swam in and out of focus, as she simply shook her head.

"I promise, he isn't going to hurt you anymore. Now rest." Capper, unable to argue through a haze of pain and exhaustion, slipped once more into blissful unconsciousness, as the sun began to set.

Captain Celaeno gripped the wheel of her ship tight, her beak clenched, as she tried not to think about what would happen, if she failed to make the deadline set by the creature now stowed away in her hold. Making the run to the capital of the Storm King's empire in a day wasn't impossible, however, it wasn't exactly a guarantee either. Already, Celaeno's crew had run themselves ragged, doing everything they could think of to increase their speed. Including throwing any unnecessary cargo and personal effects overboard, in hopes of decreasing the ship's weight. Yet even so, it would be a close thing, if they made it at all. The one positive of this mess, was that at least they were finally free of the Storm King. But in truth, it seemed they had merely traded one insane master for another.

The creature that had commandeered her ship, had given no name. Nor could Celaeno place what species he was, given she had only ever been able to see his eyes. She shuddered at the memory of those twin blazing orbs, knowing full well she would be seeing them in her nightmares. Assuming she lived long enough to have nightmares. Whatever the thing was, it was strong enough to destroy a city, and based on the one name she had heard it speak, she had an inkling of where it might have come from. 'Derpy Hooves', was a pony name if ever Celaeno heard one, and that meant that whatever this monster was, it had likely come from Equestria. It was then, that Celaeno had recalled a rumor she and her crew had heard in a tavern, from a grain trader who occasionally visited the pony homeland.

He had said that all of Equestria and the surrounding lands were singing the praises of some sort of hero, and for once, it wasn't one of the princesses. The trader had maintained that the creature was not of this world, and was the sworn protector of all ponykind. It was said he had put down the changeling queen Chrysalis's latest attempt to seize control all on his own. Defeating dragons, and even an Ursa Major, in the process. Most had just laughed at the trader, but he had sworn it was all true, saying the creature was supposedly the rightful King of Equestria. Celaeno, who had had a few dealings in Equestria before, had chuckled at that. Equestria had never had a king, and only the leader of the Crystal Empire had ever even married. At the time, Celaeno had told the old trader he should lay off the salt, now however, she wondered. . . .

"Mullet, take the wheel, I need to check on our. . . guest." Mullet, who had been coiling some rigging nearby to keep busy, stared at his captain in alarm.

"You sure that's a good idea Captain? He ain't exactly the talkin' sort." Celaeno nodded, hiding her fear as she handed off the steering column to her first mate.

"I won't be long. I just need to check something." Celaeno declared, as she headed toward the door to the cargo hold. The entity had not left the hold since going below, nearly twelve hours ago. Apparently he assumed the crew's fear of him was enough to keep them taking him anywhere but his destination. Celaeno chuckled grimly, if that was the case, then she had to admit he was right. Not one of her crew had so much as considered a betrayal. After what they had seen in Kludgetown, they'd have to be bat shit insane to double cross the beast they were transporting. Opening the door to the hold, Celaeno descended a flight of shallow steps into the lowest part of the cargo bay. The place was an absolute wreck.

Everywhere Celaeno looked, crates and boxes had been smashed apart. Grain, seed, and a few other staples had been ground into a dirty meal, on floorboards covered in smashed fruit and spilled vegetable oil. Countless pieces of splintered wood had been embedded in the floor, or punched through the walls of the hull by nigh immeasurable force. Fastenings for ropes to tie down cargo, had been ripped free from the inner hull and floor. Twisted iron cleats and snapped ropes were scattered here and there, while cracked and splintered holes in the walls and floorboards, indicated where the fastenings had once been. Celaeno stared at the destruction, and swallowed audibly as she recalled the cause.

Shortly after they had set sail with the monster, he had headed below decks to wait, only for a roar of ungodly fury to follow a moment later. Celaeno and her crew had, after a minute or two of hesitation, gone below. Only to find the beast tearing apart the cargo hold with its bare claws. Crates larger than the creature itself, and made from treated oak, where lifted and hurled into their fellows with the force of wrecking balls. The crates instantly turning to little more than splinters, amid novas of scattering seed. Bags of grain were used like clubs, to smash apart urns of cooking oil and barrels of fruit, before tearing and spraying their contents through the air. Bellows of madness and hate shook the ship, as the cargo Celaeno and her crew had been hauling, was turned into dust and ruin before their eyes. Only when Lix Spittle had pointed out the mark on the side of one partially destroyed crate, did they understand the source of the monster's latest burst of rage. Every single box, urn, and barrel, had born the blue horned emblem of the Storm King. A roar of hatred, that curdled the blood in Celaeno's veins, swiftly confirmed their guess.


Celaeno shuddered at the memory alone, as she picked her way through the wreckage. She still had no idea what the Storm King had done to provoke this creature, but she didn't envy the tyrant's position. No army in the universe could protect against this monster. Moving furtively, Celeano tried to find the creature amid the shadows, the lamps having been destroyed by its earlier rampage. Feeling tense beyond words, Celaeno wiped a bead of sweat from her brow. This now felt far less like a cargo hold, and more like the den of some colossal monstrosity. Celaeno immediately recalled the time she and her crew had faced off against a dragon in its lair. . . this was worse by a wide margin.

Celaeno let out a sudden yelp of surprise, jumping into the air as a sound echoed through the hold. A low scratching, similar to rats gnawing on wood planks, abruptly interrupted the silence. Suddenly, the shadows seemed to shift, revealing a sight disturbing, both for what it was, and for the fact that Celaeno hadn't seen it until just then. There, at the point of the bow where the two halves of the ship met, was an unnerving scene. The creature was crouched on its haunches with its back to Celaeno, looking like some brutish gargoyle hovering over a fresh kill. Scratched into the wood of the ship all around its hunched form, in crude lettering, were two names, repeated over and over. The first name was always inscribed with a surprising degree of care, given the lack of overall skill, as if meant as some form of tribute, it read: Derpy Hooves. The other name however, wasn't so much carved as slashed into the wood, the letters jagged, and only barely legible, they read: Storm King.

As the flames covering its body flickered lightly, the creature extended a single blunt armored claw, and began scratching at the wood, carving another name. Celaeno stared at the eerie sight, as the skin beneath her feathers started to prickle. If she had any questions about the state of this creature's sanity before, they were now put to an emphatic rest. Gathering her courage, Celaeno cleared her throat.

"We uh. . . we should be in spyglass range of the capital in about seven hours." The creature gave no indication it had heard Celaeno, continuing its unsettling ritual without so much as a pause. Celaeno swallowed a lump in her throat. Even sitting almost perfectly still, and not making a sound apart from its carving, this creature was nothing less than terrifying. "I was j-just wondering. . ." Celaeno continued, trying desperately to hold onto her nerve. "y-you're from Equestria aren't you?" Abruptly, the scratching stopped, as Celaeno continued speaking, her fear addled mind urging her on. "I mean, you mentioned that name 'Derpy Hooves' so I-" The movement was so fast, it was all but invisible.

In a blur of black fire, Celaeno found herself slammed into the wall of her ship. Held aloft by her throat, her legs, one flesh, one a peg of rough green crystal, dangled a full foot above the deck. Her vision eclipsed by two burning pools of crimson, as a voice of volcanic malice tore at her soul and sanity.

"NEVER. . . SAY. . . NAME!!!" The beast bellowed, shaking the ship with the sound alone. "NO RIGHT!!! NOT WORTHY!!!" It roared, its voice vibrating Celaeno's bones. "DERPY KIND!! DERPY GOOD!! YOU. . . WORTHLESS SCUM!!" Celaeno felt terror induced tears in her eyes, as she nodded her head frantically.

"I'm sorry!!" She desperately croaked out. Almost unable to draw breath, as her abused neck screamed in protest. "I'm sorry!! Please!!" Relenting, the creature dropped Celaeno, standing over her as she gasped for breath.

"STORM KING. . . ATTACK EQUESTRIA. . . STORM KING HURT FRIENDS. . . STORM KING HURT FAMILY!!! STORM KING DIE!! KINGDOM DIE!!! ALLLLL DIIIIIE!!!!" Celaeno scrambled backward on her rear in terror before the rage of the creature towering over her, convinced he was moments away from tearing her limb from limb. It was then, for just an instant, in the molten red orbs of the creature's eyes, that Celaeno glimpsed the true depths of this beast's madness. The horror that glimpse inspired. . . was absolute. Flipping herself around, Celaeno frantically scrabbled her way up the stairs on her claws and knees, bursting out onto the main deck in a flurry of feathers and flailing limbs. Instantly, her crew surrounded her, helping her up, and staring at her with worried expressions. Celaeno gasped for breath as her heart pounded, unable to speak for nearly two minutes, as she got her trembling body under control.

"We need to go faster. . . ." She finally forced out. "If we don't get to the Storm King before the time limit, it isn't just our heads on the block!" Celaeno had a haunted, desperate look in her eye, as she spoke.

"What do you mean captain?" Boyle asked, trying to sound tough, even as he eyed the door to the hold nervously. Celaeno shook her head.

"That thing. . . I think the Storm King killed somecreature important to it. He's not just hunting the Storm King, he's planning to wipe out his entire empire! Every male, every female, and every hatchling! If he thinks for even a moment that we're trying to help the Storm King or delay him. . . ." Boyle swallowed, as he made the connection.

"He won't stop at killing us. . . our families, our friends. . . ." Celaeno nodded, her expression grim.

"He'll go further than that. . . he'll destroy all of Ornithia! Our homeland. . . everycreature we've ever known, will be wiped out because of us!" Mullet stared down in horror from his place at the wheel.

"B-but. . . that's insane?!! Nocreature could be that. . . that. . . cruel!!" Celaeno turned to gaze into Mullet's eyes with a chillingly serious expression.

"Nocreature? Maybe. . . but what about a monster?" Mullet felt his heart become encased in ice, as he looked at his crewmates.

"You heard the captain! We need to go faster!!"

Capper winced as he came back to consciousness. His entire body aching as he struggled to rise.

"Don't try to get up yet." Said a soothing voice, comforting, despite being muted by Capper's damaged eardrums.

"What. . . where am I?" Capper croaked, his throat raw. A blurred figure appeared before him, holding out something that glowed with a faint bluish color.

"Here, drink." Said a new voice, this one also incredibly soothing, like waking from a night spent in the grips of a wonderful dream. Capper nodded, as the mouth of a canteen was pressed to his lips. The water was sweeter than honey as it trickled down his throat, extinguishing the horrible burning heat that scratched at it. Capper sighed contentedly, as he lay back again, only vaguely taking note of the bandages covering half his face, as the blurs before him came into focus.

"Holy wastes you're alicorns!" Capper cried out, before descending into a fit of coughing, as his wounds throbbed.

"Easy now." Spoke the first, her dark blue coat, and mane like the night sky, combining with her gentle tone, to make Capper feel instantly relaxed. Again, she used her magic to place the canteen to his lips, and he drank greedily. The trio of ponies patiently waited for Capper to finish, before offering him an earthen plate, piled with dried figs, dates, and a few pieces of preserved fish. Capper dug in gratefully, only just becoming aware that he was starving. It didn't take long for him to clean the plate completely.

"I'm sorry there isn't more." Spoke the motherly voice of the largest alicorn, her flawless white coat and ethereal rainbow mane and tail, dazzling in the light of a setting sun. "I'm sad to say not much was left to salvage, we were lucky just to find the supplies to treat your wounds." Capper shook his head.

"Don't apologize, I'd be dead if it wasn't for you." He declared, his voice choked with gratitude. The trio of winged and horned ponies gave a sad smile.

"If only we had been faster, perhaps we might have saved more." The dark one lamented. Capper just shook his head, his jaw tightening as he recalled what had happened.

"No offense to you ponies, but I'm glad you weren't here. Nocreature in the world could've stopped that monster." The smallest of the three, the purple one from before, gave Capper a strained look.

"Derran isn't. . . he isn't what you think." Instantly, Capper's mind started whirling, recalling a number of outlandish sounding rumors he had heard, that suddenly seemed far more rational. His eyes widened as they fixed on the gold and ebon regalia of two of the alicorns.

"So the stories were true. . . Equestria is protected by a god." Capper breathed out, suddenly understanding just how lucky he was to still be alive. Doubtless he'd used up at least seven of his nine lives making it through this. The princesses, as Capper had no doubt that's what they were, shook their heads.

"Derran would be the first to tell you he isn't a god, he's a Guardian. It's just. . . right now he's. . . he's not well." The purple princess declared hesitantly. Capper, despite himself, allowed a sarcastic edge to enter his voice, as he glared at the princess.

"Really. . . ." He sniped, making the purple alicorn flinch. However, it only took a second for Capper to start feeling guilty. Part of being a good concat was seeing all the angles of any situation, as a result, the twist to this story was plain as day. "Sorry." He offered, his voice tinged with regret. "I'm guessing this all has to do with that invasion fleet we saw heading toward Equestria a day or two ago?" The purple princess nodded. "Well then, seeing as the rumors were true, and that. . ."

"Derran," The purple princess supplied. "Derran Grandel." Capper nodded, trying not to feel surprised that the monstrosity that had erased his home, actually had a name.

"That Derran Grandel really exists, and was protecting you, I'm guessing the Storm King's invasion caused all this?" Again, the purple princess nodded, only for the big white one to interject.

"Forgive us Mr. . . ."

"Capper. . . at your service." He offered with a slight bow of his head. The white one smiled, and despite all that had happened, Capper instantly found his own lips quirking upward. He'd heard stories that alicorns had special powers, it seemed making bad situations better with just a smile, was one of them.

"Mr. Capper. Not to make light of your terrible ordeal, or the loss of your home, but we need to find Derran, and are short on time. We cannot allow what happened to Kludgetown to happen anywhere else." Capper nodded, he guessed these princesses already knew Kludgetown was pretty much a haven for slavers, swindlers, and lowlifes, and the world was honestly better off without it. Even as one who had lived there most of his life, Capper honestly couldn't feel too much remorse for it. However, he couldn't argue that the creature he'd seen needed to be stopped. There were plenty of towns and cities in the Storm King's empire that were full of good folks, who had been unwillingly subjugated, or outright enslaved by the tyrant and his armies. But Capper didn't think this Derran character was in any condition to care about the distinction. Whatever kind of being he had been before, 'Derran' was now an engine of destruction, and he wasn't going to let a little thing like 'innocence', get in the way of his vengeful bloodletting. If these princesses knew how to stop him, Capper would offer whatever he could to help.

"The Storm King is always in his capital city: Thunderspire. He never goes anywhere except to occasionally deliver the final blow to a conquered city. Usually he leaves all the real dirty work to his second in command: Tempest." The princesses nodded.

"Her we've met." The purple princess spat. Capper chuckled.

"Yeah, she leaves an impression I'm told." The blue princess with the mane full of stars, stepped forward.

"Might you have the location of Thunderspire city?" She asked, Capper nodded.

"A day and a half's flight north-northwest, at the northernmost edge of the Bone Dry Desert. I've never been, but the place is rumored to be a fortress, they say it's supposed to be impenetrable." The face of the starry maned alicorn became a grim mask.

"No fortress built by mortal claws, paws, hooves, or hands, can stop the Doom Slayer." She declared, her voice dark, and clearly worried. Capper's eyes widened.

"Doom Slayer?" He asked, the name alone sending a chill down his spine. The princess nodded.

"Our Guardian's most infamous title, and if we are too late, likely the last name the creatures of Thunderspire shall ever hear." Capper nodded, a feeling of cold dread clutching at his heart. He didn't doubt for a moment, that the princess spoke true. . . .

Tempest checked the guards on the wall, for what was likely the third time in the last hour. From atop the city's defensive barrier, she also noted the preparations of the archers and catapults. Thunderspire was built to be a highly defensible city. Nestled between the feet of a massive snow capped mountain, it was bordered by sheer cliffs on three sides, making it inaccessible except from the walled front. The great wall of Thunderspire itself, was one of the crowning achievements of the Storm King's empire. Built by slave labor using countless tons of stone and iron, it was thirty feet high and nearly fifteen feet thick. It stretched for almost a mile and a half across the front of the city, connecting the two bordering cliffs flanking it. Massive circular towers every one hundred feet, were topped by ballistas and mangonels, while directly behind the wall were trebuchets, and hundreds of ranked storm beast archers, armed with massive greatbows. And atop the crenelated wall itself, were hundreds more storm beasts patrolling its every inch, each one armed with crossbows and spears.

On the side of the wall facing the enemy, sheets of smooth metal prevented easy scaling. While a ten foot deep and fifteen foot wide trench, twenty feet before the foot of the wall and filled with razor sharp iron spikes, prevented access to the wall in the first place. Beyond that, Tempest could see nearly three thousand armored storm beasts in neat ordered ranks, broken up into multiple phalanxes, and armed with spears and greatswords. Nocreature had ever breached the walls of Thunderspire, and Tempest was determined that none ever would. She was still shaken by her encounter with the monstrous king that had so easily shattered her invasion force, but she was largely over it now. She had met the enemy, and decided that while he might have been frightening at the time, she had his measure now. All her forces weapons had been treated by a special alchemical mixture, designed to allow them to punch through almost any magical defense. While their armor had been magically reinforced in a similar manner. It wasn't quite as good as the masterful enchantments a studied unicorn mage could create, but Tempest was sure it would be enough to at least wound the monster she had encountered. Or rather. . . she was sure if anyone had asked.

Tempest was quite good at repressing her emotions, a necessary skill in this cruel world. That said, no amount of repression could fully erase the terror of the creature she had seen. The Storm King had been reluctant at first to sound the alarm, but Tempest had managed to convince him that this creature was the only real defense Equestria had. Not to mention, if by some deranged twist of fate he really was the rightful king of Equestria, the princesses would likely do anything to get him back if he were captured. Granted, Tempest had no intention whatsoever of actually trying to apprehend the flame shrouded monster, but her employer didn't need to know that. However, despite all of her frantic and careful preparation, Tempest couldn't escape the gnawing feeling that she was living on borrowed time.

For a moment, Tempest allowed herself to consider how things might have been different, had her horn not broken. If she had not been rejected by her so-called friends all those years ago. Perhaps, if she still had her horn, she might have been cheering this creature, instead of cowering from it. Tempest closed her eyes, looking over the desert beyond the wall. Storm clouds, a dark steel grey, crawled across the sky overhead, a distant rumble of thunder echoing across the desolate sands. Closing her eyes, Tempest heard a voice, faint, but insistent, trying to convince her it wasn't too late. That if she just turned herself in to the princesses, and apologized for what she had done, that she might still have a chance to start over. Tempest turned to glance at the airdocks, wondering for just an instant, if there might be another way to stop this. . . .

A flash of lightning, and an almighty crack of thunder, snapped Tempest from her musings with a brutal abruptness. A wave of unholy malice washed over her and the Storm King's assembled army, directing their gazes skyward. At first, they saw nothing, save the clouds forming into eddies and slow moving whirlpools of dark grey. Lightning split the sky, bolts of dazzling phosphor white and searing electric blue, tearing across the sky as though seeking escape. Then, an arctic wind blew across the battlements, Tempest's eyes widening, as a polar chill sunk into her very bones. Finally, several miles distant, the clouds parted like a dark curtain, revealing a single nondescript airship under full sail, its prow pointed strait at Thunderspire. At that moment, Tempest felt her heart, stop. Though barely visible, a figure was perched on the bowsprit, a figure that sent a bolt of sheer terror through Tempest's momentarily frozen body.

"BATTLE STATIONS!! BATTLE STATIONS!!" Tempest screamed, struggling to hold her ground against a second wave of all consuming horror. As she watched, Tempest could swear the clouds framed the sky between the ship and the city like a massive corridor. Blasts of lightning weaving around the swiftly advancing craft, before grounding out, as if afraid to strike it. A roar of thunder, like the bellow of a malicious god, seemed to announce the coming of the vessel. Heralding its unholy passenger with unrelenting bellicosity. As she stared at the distant ship, Tempest steeled herself against her renewed fear. It was too late to reconsider her choices, too late for apologies or regrets, this was now a matter of survival. The creature aboard that ship had no concept of mercy, no understanding of forgiveness, it was death, it was annihilation, it was armageddon, it. . . was doom.