The din of battle fades. The smell of burned flesh and the cries of the near dead hang in the air like an autumn mist. Everywhere, the forces that sought to finally banish the god-beast hang their heads low, even in places where they had won the day on the field of battle. Their sacrifice, their valor and their numberless dead were all in vain.
High atop the mountainside, the great god-beast stirs. His immensity dwarfs the peaks of the mountain range, but his wounds still anger him. Great rends in his flesh, some the size Azyrite temples, still ooze a sickly ichor as they struggle to close and heal. His enormous head snaps up, in a moment, he is fully awakened. Archaon, roused from a fitful sleep, also jumps to his feet.
No veil of mists surrounds them, they are simply there. Thirty of them, all in grey robes, some resplendent, others quite plain. They are gathered in the dusty plains beneath the mountain that has become the temporary home of the godbeast. They are incanting the final verses of a long rehearsed ritual as they form the shape of a dragon’s head.
The magic of the ritual seems to flow out of them. Piles of shard stone, gathered by victors and vanquished alike begin to glow with a pale light. A raw azure light lifts from the tableau, like tendrils of raw magical energy. As the eddies and currents of magic touch them, the shards seem to lose their glow, drained. The stonetouched folk shake a moment as the energy is stripped from them, they fall to the ground, unconscious, but returned to normal.
The azure glow rises slowly and gains shape. From the far off mountain, a rumble comes. Perched high atop, where the realm-gate once stood, Eristrat, lurches suddenly, raising his impossibly huge form to his feet.
Far away, a great host of Stormcast Eternals take the field. The Celestial Vindicators arrive, not knowing their deaths this day will have little effect on the plans of the god-beast. Rank upon rank of gilded heroes stand ready to face the day, regardless, not knowing if their efforts would have any effect on slowing the great beast’s progress toward healing itself.
The azure glow climbs the peak of the mountainside, growing in size and strength. Soon, the whole vista is blotted out by the ethereal mist. Eristrat’s huge bulk is soon surrounded by the azure light. His wounds slough away, flesh knits where it had been rent open. Archaon looks on in shock and amazement as the light surrounds the beast.
Eristrat’s back arches as his neck cranes to the heavens and he roars with a deafening howl of joy. The surrounding lands reverberate with the force of his voice as trees uproot and fall over. Houses and structures for miles shake and some fall to pieces. Walls tumble down, battlements quake. On every battlefield, men, aelves, duardin and beasts of every kind quake in primal fear. Victors and victims alike are shaken to the core of their being.
The moment of distraction was just enough, the great host of Nurgle did not hesitate, for they knew the power that could be theirs. They swept upon the Ogors with frightening speed, everywhere they touched turning to slime and dripping ichor. Gnarlmaw groves sprang to life in moments of sickened blight, replacing the once verdant stands of trees. Victory would be theirs this day, grandfather would be proud.
Eristrat sweeps his massive wings as Archon struggles to gain his footing and vault up the great beasts’ flanks to where he can grasp the reins.
Eristrat bellows loudly. “We leave this place, now!” he commands.
“Why? How has this happened, tell me now.” Archaon yells commandingly above the din of falling rock and detritus.
“Those fools, those cultists have sold their mortal souls to heal me. Long have I perceived their plan. Long have I prepared. Now I am mightier still. They sought to weaken me, they have only empowered me beyond what their wit can know.”
“Cultists? Of what do you speak?” Archaon asks demandingly, as he settles finally into his place on the great beast’s neck. Archaon, unused to confusion seems very annoyed. Eristrat ignores him. What can this puny mortal do to him now?
The Duardin runelord laughs as he reaches for the book bound to his belt. With some flair, he opens it to a page, withdraws his quill and makes a few slashes on the correct page. “A debt is now paid, brothers. Let us go help Archaeon and his pretty new pet.” he yells as he mounts his magmadroth. The shadowy form of a Gaunt Summoner hands him the sack of Ur-Gold. The Duardin march to war.
Eristrat vaults into the sky, and gains his wings. He effortlessly glides in and out of the azure glow that surrounds him. His mocking laughter fills the land for miles as he peers down into the plains below him. As he glides and swoops he exhales a great breath. No fire comes his great breath, instead a swirling green cloud appears, and seems to stay in place before him, as his flight gains speed. The swirling mist roils with ancient energy.
“My very own gate”, he bellows, as the mist stops in midair. Eristrat and Archaon vanish from sight as they enter. At every other gate throughout the mortal realms, great and small, everyone sees the same visage. A huge pair of glowing dragon eyes stare out of the gate for instant as a single peal of thunder cracks throughout every realm.
Eristrat is truly free to go wherever he wishes.
Da Ironjawz didn’t need no signal, but it was a krumpin good start to the day. The Aelve Wanderers was der in da valley in front of em, and da pukin paleskins had no idea what was kummin for dem. There was a Krumpin Kummin. A big, Orky Krumpin!
As the lithe form of the newly healed Eristrat fades from view, for an instant you see the image of an old Greybeard appear to loom in the sky before the godbeast. The cloud of azure energy still reaches back to the mountainside from whence he came. They speak in a tongue you cannot comprehend. Eristrat’s great neck cranes back and he peers back to the mountainside. He issues what you can only feel is a great laugh and the figure of the Greybeard vanishes, only to appear at your side.
Lord Castellant Serendis Stormeye looks over the battlefield. A hard fought victory had come to naught after all. After all the work, all the brothers reforging meant nothing! Archaeon and his damned god-beast were in flight again, and that could not be good. The great victory he had won this day was only part of this effort, and he felt betrayed. Somewhere, others had not kept their end of the bargain. A price would have to be paid, yet again.
The old Greybeard looks at you and speaks, “And now the game begins again. The cycle continues. The two will become one again.” The old Greybeard says and then turns to face you.
“You have done well this day. Eristrat is as he should be once again, a force akin to the gods themselves. He no longer needs puny realm-gates and he will go wherever he wants.” Greybeard says to you, smiling approvingly, as a parent might to a child.
As you look on, Greybeard seems to shimmer and glow with an ethereal glow.
“It’s simply too bad that you will not live to see the accolades you should. But our mistress must feed, she is reborn and is so very hungry. The age of Eristrat is ending, a new age begins soon.”
“Behold!” The old Greybeard commands, and your gaze is fixed on the mountain where this all began. The top begins to spew great gobbets of smoke, then fire into the sky. Fingers of flame lick at the sky, like skeletal hands reaching from the grave. Soon, the mountaintop is wreathed in flames and a full quarter of the mountaintop disappears from view leaving naught but a great caldera. An impossibly huge claw emerges and grasps the side of the newly formed volcano. Then a head begins to come into view. A head half again larger than Eristrat’s rises up then begins to gaze about the land.
The Greybeard leers at you with mocking eyes, almost daring you to laugh with him.
“But you did win the day for us, so I gift you this. Time.” He pauses. “I give you moments to flee. Run now! Run little children. Run back to your godlings and tell them. Tell them that the Reunion of God-Beasts is nigh!” He yells as you are freed from your reverie. His laughter is mixed with the thunderous clamour from the mountainside. “Run quickly, lest you and your army be consumed.”
You waste no time, you order your forces. Fleeing from this place with all speed is all you can do. You are flying from the strange into the stranger, from mortal peril into darkest danger.
The Cult of Eristrat has manipulated you and they must be stopped before their final plan comes to pass.
Ersitrat appears above the eight points and lands with a deafening crash. He seems absolutely delighted with himself.
His giant head cranes to leer at Archaon, “Choose wisely where I go next, youngling. Your next choice is your last.”
Archaon fumed. He was poised to lash out at the great beast, then he caught himself. This was an empowered god-beast. It probably already had the raw power to break his control over it. Perhaps it was giving him one final shot at using the power of a god-beast. He was glad he had always treated the beast with respect. Perched atop the mountain of flesh that was the god-beast Eristrat, he did the only thing he could do. He bowed low to the great head and averted his eyes. Eristrat rumbled in a deep laugh.
Archaon spoke carefully, “I thank you, great one, and I shall plan well.”
Eristrat spoke again, as he wrapped his immense frame into a coil, large enough to encompass all the great Realmgates of the Eight Points.
“That would be wise”, and he laid his head down to rest, and allowed Archaon to jump to the ground. Eristrat fell into a fitful sleep.
In the distance, a shrouded figure watches the scene transpire from atop the Ghyran Realmgate. Her grey robe had made her almost invisible in the dimming light. She slowly draws out a great, shining bow and a single black arrow. As she raises the arrow to nock it, a hand grasps her shoulder.
“Not yet. This is not your time. The Cult of Eristrat will have need of your strength in the days ahead.”
The shrouded figure shook her head and let the arrow and bow settle back. The grey robe once again concealing her completely.
“But will these mortals have the strength to do what they must?” she asks.
“Time will tell, only time. The reunion is nigh and we must be ready, or all will be lost. We almost won this day, but now the armies must gather. Alliances must be made, and renewed. We have work to do. They do not know fully what has happened this day.”