Here’s the start of chapter two of Beyond the realm of Night. Won’t be long now. i’m just fiddling with it. Can’t bring myself to start the horror of formatting.
On the far side of the Great River, a pack of wolfmen scuttled backwards and forwards, whining and snarling. An elegant stone bridge spanned the river haunted by kelpies, merrows, and lindworms, and the wolfmen were torn between their fear of what dwelt in the river and their horror of the power that had brought back the bridge from oblivion.
Gliding overhead on iridescent wings, Oriax watched the yapping, cringing mob, and his lip curled in disdain. Raising a careless hand, he pointed at a skinny black wolfman, more wolf than man, running round in circles, his tail between his legs, unable to summon up the courage to step onto the smooth paving stones of the road across the bridge. Oriax projected his anger and his contempt, concentrated into a ball of power, and hurled it at the unfortunate creature. With a shriek of surprise and pain, the wolfman exploded in a bright flower of flame, scattering his fellows in all directions.
Oriax sought the leader. The grey and black brindled monster loped on two legs a short distance from the bridge and stopped. He raised his muzzle and sniffed the air, the stench of burnt flesh and fear, and the stench of the bridge. The bridge was the work of the green witch and reeked of green magic, the opposite of the black terror of Abaddon and the Pit. The creatures from Hell could no more cross the bridge uninvited than they could sing grand opera. The leader howled, and the panicked wolfmen stopped in their tracks.
Oriax reached into the primitive brain of the pack leader and squeezed. The creature jerked backwards then fell to the ground, writhing in agony. Oriax relaxed the pressure and spoke, his words appearing in the wolfman’s head, pricked out with red-hot needles.
Cross the river, imbeciles! Swim, carrion dogs! And pick up the scent of Loki-traitor on the other side.
The brindled wolfman shook his head slowly and stood upright. The rest of the pack watched, tongues lolling, heads held on one side, waiting for the order. The leader drew himself up to his full height and threw back his head in a savage howl that was taken up by fifty wild throats.
“Swim!” The grey leader snarled and ran to the bank, throwing himself into the murky, swift-flowing waters. The pack followed, and within seconds the river was chopped and broken by the frenzied splashing of wolfmen.
Shadows moved on the river bottom, things older than Hell, already forgotten when Abaddon was cast over the rim of the sky, and answerable to no demon king. Creatures of the deepest oceans, they were drawn to the Great River by the stirrings of magic. They sensed the coming battle and wanted their share of the victory, to bask in the orgy of destruction that would follow. Oriax watched unperturbed as the hungry shadows rose, slow and deadly, and the first of the threshing swimmers was dragged down. A trail of bubbles, a cloud of red in the brown water marked where the wolfman had been, and the shadow sank back to the depths.
Wolfmen jabbered and whined as they splashed their ungainly way across the river, battling against the river currents, gripped by a cold fear of the unseen horrors below. Another struggling beast disappeared beneath the water, then another. The leader howled in fear and urged the pack forward.
Oriax laughed silently at the terror-stricken wolfmen. Idly he fixed on a shadow slowly rising from the mud and tried to pierce its mind, amused at the idea of the utter terror he could cause by tormenting the mind of such a primeval monster. The dawning of fear in its primitive brain, when the creature realised it was caught in a trap that surpassed its understanding, would unleash havoc before it died. He threw a bolt of power, anticipating the terrified threshing as the monster tried to escape, then the eruption of ancient flesh and torrents of river water.
Instead the smile disappeared from his face as the bolt was caught and flung back, harpoon-like, against him. A harpoon with a deadly chain attached. Oriax felt the chain tighten and begin to drag him down. His wings beat furiously as he fought against the terrible pull. Like the wolfmen in the water, the demon floundered in the air, drawn inexorably lower. He gasped, his strength failing, knowing he was unable to stay aloft much longer.
Abaddon! My Lord, Abaddon! He sent out a desperate silent call. For a terrible instant Oriax dropped like a stone as his wings refused to obey, then a pair of glowing red eyes flicked open inside his head. Oriax screamed as a line of flame shot through his head and along the chain that bound him to the creature in the river. He clutched his head in agony as the pain intensified, searing the back of his eyeballs, plunging into the river beast’s brain.
In a hiss of steam the river erupted, and a pale, deathly white belly rolled briefly into sight before it sank back into the depths. Abaddon withdrew his red-hot needles from Oriax’s head. The demon’s wings sprang open and bore him upwards, away from the filthy river. With a sigh of gratitude, Oriax opened his eyes.
The pain, when it struck, caught him unawares, with a force so violent that his vision went black and his heart faltered, the pressure on his thorax crushing the life’s breath out of him.
Do not fail me, worm! Abaddon hissed into the flailing demon’s consciousness and, with a dismissive snort, left him.