From the Archives of Arasunia
Recorded by Vestigo in Ephemeris from Beyond the Verge
~3767, The Second Corruption
What has Maliken done?
Less than a fortnight ago, the armies of Man and Beast converged here, led by Jeraziah and Ophelia, respectively, for what many thought would be the final battle. It would determine who truly sits atop the Newerth food chain, they said. Whoever lost the fight would face slavery and exile at the very least—possibly extinction. And so I accompanied Jeraziah’s march, knowing what I recorded may well be the last entry in this ephemeris.
Instead, it would be the first chapter of the bloodiest, cruelest carnage our world has ever seen.
This area had been an open field surrounding a city named Hope’s Keep at the base of the eastern range of the Iron Mountains. A beautiful, serene place, I am told by the few survivors who had known it before. My footsteps turn the charred grasses into dust that melds with the quivering ash and greasy soot that covers every surface like a wet scab. Scorched bodies lie like heaps of charcoal, though it is impossible to tell if they died before the earth opened, or after.
Man and Beast had worked hard at killing each other, surging into battle before their masters could pull the vanguards back. I am certain Maliken watched this, surveyed the savagery from whatever state of madness he’d fallen into. Watched, waited, and hoped we would prove ourselves worthy of the fate he’d summoned for us. We did so, and as is customary for Man and Beast, we refused all forms of moderation. The slaughter was ruthless and barbaric.
I move closer to the fresh, gaping chasm and cover my nose and mouth to keep the sulphuric odor from halting my progress. The thick air gnaws at soft tissues and stings all exposed flesh. Perhaps it was the copious blood of Man and Beast soaking into the dirt that made the earth crack open like an egg to spill the vileness forth, like watering a seed until it sprouts. Maybe it was the more voluminous streams of rage and hatred between the factions—like fertilizer for the daemons—that brought this upon us. No matter the trigger, this Second Corruption would not have happened if not for Maliken Grimm and his twisted concept of victory.
The blackened earth rises now toward the heaps of soil, stone and corpses piled along the fringe of the Scar. This is what they’ve named it, the Scar, even though it still bleeds and seeps its pollution like an infected slash across the bowels. The only reason I am still alive and moving freely so near the epicenter of destruction is because the first wave of daemons was so massive and eager for death it emptied the Scar completely, scattering after the fleeing Men and Beasts, and the second sortie has not yet arrived.
But I can hear them coming.
It is a low rumble beneath my feet. At first I thought it came from Krula, the highest peak of the eastern Iron Mountains, which shattered in a staggering explosion of rock and lava when the Scar opened. Krula is no longer the highest peak. Now she is a squat, jagged volcano that leaks noxious yellow lava like pus from a boil. The rumbling could easily—perhaps preferably—be another eruption, but it is not. I ease to the edge of the Scar and look down. Down and down, and see the rumbling is from a stampede.
The walls of the Scar are not recognizable as earth. They are a mottled crust of exposed pink and scorched black, like a wound half-cauterized. Gaping holes in the glistening walls show large, swollen things sliding, shifting, burrowing within. And far below, where the light of Sol cannot hope to reach, the darkness is busy with clusters of furious, glowing eyes. The glow occasionally reflects off a tooth or claw, betraying the frantic movement of the countless daemons below me. They are climbing.
I can look no more. Something down there urges me to cast myself in, and it is very convincing. I gaze across the expanse to the base of Krula, toward the smoldering city of Hope’s Keep. What is left of it. The city, caught between the Scar and volcano, was decimated. Those lucky enough to be incinerated were spared the ravenous daemons who swarmed through the alleys and homes, claiming every life and inch of the city as their own. It has already been renamed Hell’s Keep by the Men and Beasts, vicious enemies who, once the Scar opened, stood shoulder to shoulder, back to back, and defended one another against the torrent of Hellbourne. If Maliken lives, he is somewhere within the ruins of Hell’s Keep. What he plans next is unknown, and more terrifying because of it.
Our lines have fallen back beyond Watchtower. No one has suggested trying to retake the city. The daemons have already begun some sort of reconstruction project on the outskirts of the ruins; imps scurry over hasty scaffolding and multi-armed daemons lift blocks of machinery and stone into place. At first I think these are defensive towers and walls, but when black smoke begins to spew from a twisted pipe fused to a glowing belly of iron, I realize it is machinery. They are industrializing death.
It is time to go.
The climbing daemons can smell me now, and some have unfurled wet, heavy wings that will soon dry and offer flight. This Scar upon the land may be the wound that ends us all.
As long as it remains open, Newerth will bleed.