You feel as if you are falling down an endless tunnel, with walls
of rough rock. Bats whirr through the darkness and strange,
vast fungal growths bulge from the damp stone.
You suddenly realise that you are dreaming but the realisation does not wake
you. You are being whirled through the air at tremendous
speed, down and down and yet further down.
Then there is a dizzying moment of plummeting through pitch
darkness; and then you are hovering in a chamber that seems
horribly familiar, as if you had seen it before, though you know
you have not. A mass of black stone fills the centre of the room,
so dark in hue that it seems to devour the light and to exude
darkness like smoke, though its edges are perfectly distinct.
You know instinctively that this is the heart of a power as vast
and cold as space, a power that despises you simply because
you dare to exist. Were you truly here, you feel, it would leech
the life out of you.
The stone has been chipped in many places, as if flakes have
been chiselled off and taken away as relics.
There are eight figures here, conducting a ceremony of some
kind. The figures have manes of white hair and ink-black skin.
They wear robes of translucent fabric and move with the slow,
patient grace of spinning spiders, placing ritual items in their
places – a platinum skull that steams with blue mist, a chalice
carved from a single gigantic ruby, a crystal disc engraved
with a complicated web. As to what the purpose of this ritual
may be, you cannot guess.
There are voices speaking from somewhere nearby – a female
and a male. The male speaks: ‘You are watching them?’
‘I am,’ the female responds.
‘It is confirmed, then? The one they call the Terror has begun
‘She has. Already she has taken one circle. I confess, I am a
‘A Node, corrupted? Without access to the Altar? How?’
‘It seems House Vonnarc retained fragments from the end of the
last war. With those, she broke the hold of the star-bitch over
the stones. There is no doubt that she is of us, of the Host.
Her followers have grown strong. Even the grey ones bend the
knee to her. None of us foresaw it, but House Vonnarc is indeed
favoured of the Dark. Perhaps it is the will of the Dark that we
admit them back to the Ennead.’
‘It could be an aberration. House Vonnarc lost the last war for
us. Why should we ever forget that?’
‘I do not intend to forget any details of the last war, brother.
Unlike you, I was there. I think we shall watch this Terror that
Vonnarc has bred for a while longer. She has not called for our
help yet, and for that I respect her, if for nothing else. Let us
see how she fares. Let her prove what she is so desperate to
‘Where is she now?’
‘Let us find out. I see her… in council with her generals. They
are speaking of Nidale , of some subterfuge. Curious. What
is the creature plotting? Let me listen… Ah! Cunning indeed!
Even now, while her diplomats are awaiting audience with the
King of Caldraza, speaking of treaties and compromise, the
subtle knives of her other agents gleam in the shadows! Oh, she
will have her treaty, right enough, whether King Titus wishes it
or not… and by the time anyone detects her, the damage will be
done… hold! There are other eyes here! Who observes us?’
With that, you awaken suddenly, with a lingering cold in your