Olathöe

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Reference: The Quest of Iranon by H.P. Lovecraft
I have been to Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadatheron on the winding river Ai, and have dwelt long in Olathoe in the land of Lomar.
Reference: Polaris by H.P. Lovecraft
Nor was I a stranger in the streets of Olathoe, which lies on the plateau of Sarkia, betwixt the peaks of Noton and Kadiphonek.
Reference: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft
Then one very ancient Zoog recalled a thing unheard-of by the others; and said that in Ulthar, beyond the River Skai, there still lingered the last copy of those inconceivably old Pnakotic Manuscripts made by waking men in forgotten boreal kingdoms and borne into the land of dreams when the hairy cannibal Gnophkehs overcame many-templed Olathoe and slew all the heroes of the land of Lomar.

Introduction

Name of either a mysterious city on a landmass, or the landmass itself, that appeared in the ?? century, in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of North Amerika. Olathöe appears to have been inhabited in the same age as the fabled continent of Hyperborea prior to the great Ice Age twenty six thousand years ago.

Evidence gathered in the Ice War indicates Olathöe was the hub/nexus of the machinations of the beings known as the <Others>. It was presumed devastated when hit by an asteroid under the control of the Daemon Sultan, in a bid to prevent the <Others> plans from coming to fruition. Two expeditions have since been mounted to the island, the findings of which have never been made public.

Olathoe.GIF
Map of Olathöe 1753 - 1754

Newsfaxes

1727-1728 T199
The Boreal Waste, Where Once Lomar Held Sway
Abyssal cold hung in the air, slowing even the movement of zephyrs and breezes. Six figures, ancient and filled with incalculable evil, surrounded a slowly shifting blue flame. The fire yielded no heat, even its illumination was only a faint wash of azure on the faces of those that listened to the word of the power that ruled behind the sky.

Now, truths will be revealed unto you: The intelligence They have received indicates that the Sunlanders are thinking of the Anchors in cultural terms: "the Christian Anchor", "an Oro Anchor", "a Hussite Anchor" and so on-- this line of thinking is to be encouraged where feasible, since it promotes sectarian behavior and diminishes the holism that is the true understructure of the Shield and Anchor system.

The words formed from the crystal air, impressing themselves upon the living minds of the ancient ones that listened.

Admiral Lorquin has mentioned that Kristatos should not be killed by our forces. It is time that you, the Ice Tribes, understand why these things are so:

<They | The Others | Those From Outside | The Glacier | The Aurora> are of a kind greater in scope than Humankind. They are <chaos without order>. T are older than mankind, older than Earth.

They are vast beyond understanding, and encompass worlds in <Their> dreaming. We of earth can know them only a little, and <Their> presence is a vast weight, in one breath <comforting | damning>.

From time to time, the stars are right, and They can stride or seep from world to world through the Void, and attempt to join yet another world in <Their> dreams.

The last such attempt on Earth was some twenty-six thousand years ago. They succeeded, for a time; we call this "the Ice Age".

The relatively primitive humans living at that time had no defense against <Their> presence: They and <Their> minions spawned the legends of creatures such as Ymir and Surt, giants of Frost and Spectral Fire, ruling over gulfs and abysses of rock and ice.

For all the world was then filled with the <ecstasy | pain> of <Their> dreams, and all of <unconscious | sybaritic> humankind that dwelt with them held revel upon the Ice, dreaming with <Them> of no thing of Earth's fields.

But, even as bacteria will evolve an immunity to antibiotics, so humans evolved a defense against supernatural incursion. This was the development of the human "consciousness".

As it happens, other races which had inhabited Earth before man had evolved similar defenses: the Old Ones, and the Race of Yith, for example, and of whom more anon.

With the development of consciousness came the ability to form the curious phrase "I am not alone."; and Kipling's Master Word: "We be of one blood, ye and I".

Fourteen millenia ago, the first fully conscious humans beheld the sun rise over the Ice and said: "We can do more than this".

This was a time of gods and heroes among men: the men of that generation are immortalized through millenia of retelling as Hercules and Thor, as Quetzalcoatl and Coyote, as Izanami and Amaterasu.

They learned, with great effort, the art of nobility. They learned that their word and their blood were the sword and the Shield of the earth against <Them> and <Their> kind.

Noble men, speaking noble truths, died, and their life-energies went to form a Shield about the earth; their mortal remains Anchoring it to the planet it protected".

In the war that followed, Heroes fell: Odinn and his wisdom struck down by Surt; Thorr's life ending in the coils of Jormungand. And in their fall, in their dying, they drove back the Ice. The Fimbulwinter, the twenty thousand years of Ice, came to an end.

But the things of men march in step with time: the Anchors of that era are long departed. Other men, speaking other truths, stepped into their places, and took up the ancient sacrifice of consciousness as their own. The Bodhisattva chose to give up non-being, non-consciousness, to bring his truths into the world. The Christ, died on the Cross that "all men might live". And the things they touched Anchored their words and their beliefs to the people and the planet they cherished.

Two million years ago, the Old Ones gave up the last of their land cities, the last of their places in the Sun, that _their_ culture and _their_ way of life not be overrun by the shoggoths they had bred: that City stands to this day a monument to their sacrifice.

Sixty million years ago, the Race of Yith set a stela in a great valley ruled by their people, to mark the place where they fled en-masse their bodies for new refuge against the onslaught of time. Earth's pace since then has lifted it to the mountain heights, but still it stands, witness to that great exile.

Now -- go back to your tales of Kristatos. Look at his name and epithets: "Kristatos Artaxerxes Paleologai, King of the Greeks, Emperor of the Danes, Protector of Italy, Mjolnir-na-Midgaard, Rex Germanicus, Pendragon of the Isles"

"Mjolnir-na-Midgaard".

Now, there is an epithet the Kings of Denmark have borne since before they became Christian. Think you not that here is a man in whose veins Aesir blood flows true? Think on it: the heir of Odinn, the heir of Thorr.

In him is reborn the nobility of his ancient fathers.

Were Kristatos to die at Ice Tribe hands, a sacrifice for his people, we run a terrible, terrible risk of creating a new Anchor.

"The Huss Bible" is not an anchor: Huss died not in sacrifice for his fellow man; he died raging at the Catholics, tearing down, not building up.

The "Zoroastrian Anchor" that the Persians spoke of some time ago is an act of desperation, but not of self-sacrifice.

So, yes, when we speak of such things, let us say "The Hopi Anchor" or "The Muslim Anchor" or "The Aborigine Anchor". Let us allow our enemies to join with us, by sinking into sectarian... unconsciousness.

And of Kristatos and his line, let them be brought before the Uliqqa, before the Seven, before <Them>. T will eat his thought. T will consume him. T will leave a husk, to be filled with <Their> thought. T will send him among his people bearing madness and despair.

And you, the Ice Tribes, are the first of a new generation whose minds and hearts are touched by <Their> presence. It is you who will join with them in ecstasy and revel for ever. Ia! Hastur fhtagn! Ia! Ithaqua fhtagn!

1729 - 1730 T200
In The Ruins of Dead Olathoë, Which Long Ago Fell Under the Sway of the Ice…

After dark, before midnight, Aldebaran hangs low and red in the eastern sky. In the Tower room, two stand, an older and a younger. They are both dressed in robes of pale yellow. The robes are cinched at the waist with red cord; one end of the cord is tied in eleven knots, the other in nine. They are barefoot, despite the chill.

Between them stands a full-length mirror, beside it, to the right, a pedestal; to the left a brazier and a bell. Upon the pedestal is a small bowl, of a thick liquid: oil of pomegranate, mixed with essence of myrrh and tears of sorrow. Beside this is an unlit candle.

The bell stands in its own frame, and is of deeply-toned bronze. The coals of the brazier have been treated with boric acid; the flames burn pale green, and give little heat.

The two men face Aldebaran and raise their arms, palms facing outwards, as if in supplication. Arms raised, they turn, facing each of the cardinal points in turn. At each point, the younger speaks: “Begone! Begone afar, thou of Earth!”

Now, their arms are lowered, but their palms are still slightly raised. As one, they say: “Thee we invoke, O Soul and Messenger of those Dark Ones who flap and mutter at the nethermost center of creation! Thee, whose voice brings knowledge, and whose dark wings, strength!”

There is a pause; the wind is cold, but this no longer concerns them. Again, both act as one. With their right hands they trace out in the direction of Aldebaran the Elder Sign. As each line is drawn, they intone: ny… ar… rut… ho… teb…

They bring at last their arms together, folded across their chests, left over right. The rite is opened; the telesterion is prepared. The younger now strikes the bell, three and three and four and one.

They declaim together: “O divine and inscrutable Nyarrut Hoteb, encompass me with the wings of thy strength and fill my soul with thy light, that I may securely and powerfully invoke the spirit Asturu; to the end that he shall guide us this night and each night in dream for the increase of our knowledge of the wonders and beauties of the world to come.”

The younger strikes the bell, once.

They proclaim: “O Asturu! August and lofty spirit! By my soul's quest for freedom and the deep intimations of destiny, bring me to the Lake of Hali, and open to me this night the grandeur of Carcosa.

“Thine to bestow are <gifts>. Thou dost enable thy servant to seal threefold with adamantine locks that which is to be kept secret, and thou givest the sleep in which works of Art may be performed, or learning and skill gained.

“O thou spirit of most unspeakable aspect, exalted Asturu, upon thee in the mighty name Nyarrut Hoteb do I call, that thy will and thy power bring to full accomplishment this present working.”

The older now touches the mirror with his left hand, saying: "Awaken, O Mirror, to the power of Asturu!"

There is a pause, and they both chant the long vowel: “auuu…” The younger lights the taper, and holds it ready.

Now the elder commands: "Be attentive, O Mirror, to the vibrations which I awaken. Be receptive to them, even as it is thy nature to receive the imprint of form and color. So receive as thine the sacred characters and the names of power, that thy substance may be harmonious to the astral energies of Alar that thou mayest be established in truth upon Dehme."

The elder now takes the lighted taper and traces in the air before the mirror the presigillum of the King in Yellow: Yellow sign.jpg

The taper is now extinguished. The elder dips his finger in the oil, and draws upon the surface of the mirror the Yellow Sign: Yellow sign.jpg.

The elder commands: “Bear this mighty sigil, O Mirror, and know thyself to be the destined vehicle for the presence of Asturu, luminous spirit of the Hyades!”

The younger sounds the bell, twice and once. They raise their right hands, palm towards the mirror, and make the invocation thus: “Come into this Mirror, O luminous Asturu, spirit of the Hyades! For its vibration is in harmony with thine own, and it welcomes thee! Come, O thou spirit of most unspeakable aspect, exalted Asturu! Come into this Mirror, O august and lofty Spirit, and in the name Nyarrut Hoteb be present to our inner perception!”

Here, the presence of He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named fills their perception. They cry together: "Thou art welcome, O Asturu, illustrious spirit of the Hyades! We give thee welcome in the name Nyarrut Hoteb, that name whereby increase of blessing is extended, and we charge thee in that name that thou should come to us this night as we sleep, and lead us forth, to experience the wonders and beauties of Carcosa wherein thou art mighty!

“We give thee the most potent name Nyarrut Hoteb, as a bond and token between us, O Asturu, and bear thee with us in the night.”

The brazier is extinguished, and they go to their beds, overcome with exhaustion at their successful conjury.

Him-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named comes on wings of night.

In dream, they sign the Book of Azathoth, their names recorded in the presence of the Daemon Sultan; to them is revealed the meaning of the Yellow Sign, and they are made to look upon the Pallid Mask. In the hour before the rising of the sun, they wake drenched with sweat despite the periarctic cold, crying aloud the final words of the Unspeakable Oath.

1735 - 1736 T203
Upon the face of the Abyss
something moved, colossal and unrelenting. A blue world, shrouded in white, turned far below. Tumbling, the visitor moved slowly, barely urged by dark flocks that clung to its rocky flank like carrion birds. Invisible atmosphere reached up, brushing against the titanic mass and peaks and valleys in the darkness were suddenly aboil with steam and melting ice. Unheard, in the void, a shrieking began, of stone and ice and ore stressed by clawing gravity and tormented by rushing winds.

The face of the visitor began to heat as it plunged into the atmosphere. Rock that had been cold for millennia began to glow. The shrieking became a howl and now, as the visitor battered its way, accelerating at a dreadful rate, through thin clouds and steadily thickening air, the mountain began to burn.

Great clouds of dark shapes - some winged, some not - began to peel away, hurrying back into the cold abyss, rising up in endless flocks, beating the aether with their long talons and tentacular limbs. Crying out in foul voices, they swarmed away from the visitor, their purpose complete.

The mountain fell, and the howl echoed across the world. Below, there was only endless white, pierced by barren mountains and ancient, glassy-green lakes.

Dread Olathöe, Within The Ice
"Master! Master, rouse yourself! The day of days is at hand!"

The eldest of those that watch at the threshold opened his eyes. They were dark green, like excellent jade, and they looked upon the face of a young Inuto - one of the latest slaves sent up from the south. Here, so close to <Them>, the air was perfectly clear, without even the smallest trace of dust or moisture. The boy was grinning, unseeing eyes looking to the monumental ceiling.

The Eldest looked up as well, reaching out with age-old powers that had served him well when the cities of Lomar and Hyperborea were thronged with warm life, and the loathsome gnoph-keh still roamed the forests under ice-crowned Kadiphonek and Noton. He did not be believe the boy's ravings, but...

The Eldest blanched, and the tremor in his flesh woke the others from their endless sleep. For a moment there was stunned silence, then a cacophony of panic and screams and wailing lamentation. Of them all, only the Eldest did not show fear or despair.

"That is not dead", he chanted to himself, ancient claw-like hands caressing a sliver of soapstone graven with ancient, unknown signs. "Which can eternal lie, and in strange aeons..."

A screaming wail filled the air, drowning out his words. A monstrous blast of searing air rushed across the city, throwing down those fortunate enough to be out of doors. Ancient pillars toppled and statues of grave-faced, bearded men shuddered and then collapsed in ruin. The sky - from horizon to horizon - was filled with a blaze of light, brighter than the dim sun shining down. The winds howled and raged, driving back the gray clouds and then, blazing hot, bigger than the entire city, the visitor crashed to earth.

The asteroid was five miles long and two wide - a tumbling cylinder wrenched from the death-caul of shattered Minerva. The ancient city was annihilated on impact, pulverized to ash and driven deep into the earth. Those tombs and adits far below the ground vanished in a cataclysm of collapsing rock and stone. Even the mighty powers of old Lomar could not resist the awesome power unleashed upon the surface. That shape that dwelt below Olathöe, shrouded in gray refulgence, that eternally burning blue flame that had doomed Zobnar and Hyperborea alike, was buried deep in a cascade of millions of tons of rock.

The land shook and rippled, mountains leaping as the shockwave of the blast tore through the earth. Hundreds of miles away, buildings shivered to rubble and in the crucible of Olathöe nothing stood. The kinetic energy of the asteroid transferred to the earth in a rumbling shock, and to the air in a whirlwind of fire that reduced a hundred square miles of tundra and ice to a burning, steaming wasteland.

Mammoth winds howled out from the blast, raging across the plains and hills, killing everything that might live within their reach. A vast plume of ash and smoke soared up, flooding into the upper atmosphere and pluming out like a grotesque, colossal mushroom. The dust cloud lit with lightning, roaring up from the blast, and the aurora flared awake, shining down across the whole of the northern hemisphere like a beacon of doom.

The earth shook, and the kingdoms of man trembled.

A tower of bronze in old Ugarit
A sphere of crystal trembled, signaling mighty destruction. In the constant darkness surrounding the sphere, a figure stirred. Something inhuman leaned over the crystal, watching visions and phantasms ripple in its depths. Only scenes of destruction and death met its gaze. For a moment, the figure exulted - the stroke had gone true! - then wariness overcame the brief glow of victory. What is this?

There was a flicker of sensation, as if something looked in upon the figure and the darkness, then looked away again.

"That child with the flute." The dark shape hissed in speculation. "She grows bold. How delightful!"

A hand, black as pitch, brushed over the surface of the crystal and the sphere grew dark. The creature's attention was turned elsewhere, and so it did not notice that the sphere wobbled for a moment on the glyph-carved tabled and then, suddenly and unaccountably, shivered and turned gray, as if ash had precipitated out of the air across its smooth surface.

Over The Ice, North by Northeast
The steady rumbling of the big Alcazar-Nagant engines had lulled Teresa almost to sleep. Wrapped in furs, her raven hair hidden under an enormous Siberian mink hat, only the Empress-Regent's eyes were visible. She was squeezed into the corner of the flight bridge of the Toledo, strapped in with leather safety belts. The airship flew steadily north and east, riding at the center of a cloud of slightly smaller Chevalier-class zeppelins. On either wing, lines of Swedish and English airships also advanced. Already the sun was rising, swimming up over the curved eastern rim of the world. Pale salmon sunlight struck through the glass windows of the Toledo, illuminating the faces of the crew.

At such height, every man was bundled up in heavy woolens, their breath frosting white in the air. Most were dozing. The flight had been uneventful. None of them noticed a brilliant flash to the north, as if the sun had reflected suddenly from an enormous mirror.

Teresa's eyes snapped open and she jerked violently against the restraints. She gulped, then shouted "Captain! Turn us about. Now!" Her hands were busy with the buckles.

The flight captain turned, astonished, and found himself facing the business end of a Swedish-made Tupolev revolver. The Empress' brilliant sapphire eyes burned over the iron sight. "Signal the fleet - reverse course, all speed and run south south-west."

"What!"

The muzzle of the revolver jammed into his left eye socket, drawing a gasp of pain, and the sound of the hammer ratcheting back. "Signal the fleet," she bit out. "Or we are all dead."

The captain nodded weakly, and the pistol drew back.

Within minutes, the air armada crammed with para-marines and every kind of explosive device was swinging around in a huge curve. Signal lights flashed from the Swedish and English command ships, but Teresa explained nothing. Her only concern was speed, speed south and away.

Forty-five minutes after the mysterious flash, with the air fleet running south, engines hot, consuming kerosene at an enormous rate, the shockwave belled through the upper air. The airships bucked and heaved, and some suffered structural failure, engines tearing lose, gas-cells rupturing, ships and crews plunging suddenly to an agonizing death on the ice-pack so far below. More were blown off course, scattered to the four directions.

Teresa and the Toledo rode out the sky-storm, though the rush of hot air made them lose tremendous altitude as the atmosphere around them thinned and the lift-gas lost differential. Below, the ice on the northern sea cracked and groaned, making such a noise that it could be heard even at a thousand feet.

A storm followed, rolling up over the rim of the world, and then the fleet was truly scattered, each ship lost and alone amid boiling black clouds and jagged lightning. The Toledo struggled on, one of her four huge engines out, two others running too hot. Crewmen struggled on the bracings, trying to fix the damaged engine. More than one was torn loose by the storm winds and vanished, screaming, into the abyssal night.

But always, the Toldeo fought her way south, through the driving hot rain.

Dread Hûkar, On the Plain of Bones
Alliance naval forces prowling the edge of the ice-pack in Alaskan seas did not escape the effects of the Cataclysm at Olathöe either. Tidal waves smashed many ships to kindling and drove others against a barren and inhospitable shore.

Near Old Bolgar, Siberia
Old Firdik woke with a start, clutching for his flintlock. An odd rumbling sound filled the air and the old hide yurt was dancing on its strakes like a crazy chicken. Firdik jammed his feet into hide boots and rolled out into the cold night. The first thing he saw was the lake rippling and shaking, chunks of ice bigger than the cathedral in Sarai jouncing up and down. Firdik started running for the shore, icy air biting at his exposed face. His breath shot to steam in his nostrils, then froze in the thick hairs of his beard.

Gasping, lungs burning, he threw himself from the surface of the lake just as - with a tumultuous grinding sound - the surface cracked and split and the old yurt tilted up and was swallowed by the black waters. The hunter rolled over, clutching the rifle to his breast.

That was when his saw the airship ghost overhead, running lights glowing red in the brittle air. The thump-thump-thump of the engines was lost in the creaking sound echoing from the land. The earthquake passed quickly, leaving trees canted at all angles and the lake boiling and bubbling.

Firdik cursed, then drew a pipe from his jacket pocket. At least he had some leaf left in the other pocket. He puffed for a moment, cradling a spark, then blew out a long white cloud into the darkness. The weather is getting better, he thought. Hm. I need a new tent.

1737 – 1738 T204
The Divine Kingdom of Judah: The Emperor was pleased to hear of the defeat of the Legions of Darkness and the destruction of dread Olathöe (for where else could the masters of the Ice have laired, save in the doomed morgue of the Hyperboreans?). He had escaped from Lomar himself only by the greatest luck, and he thanked God for his destruction of that vile nest.

1743 – 1744 T207
A dreadful cloud joined the faint brown smudge already clogging the higher reaches of the sky – the detritus of the Olathöe explosion.

1753 - 1754 T212
The Race to the Top of the World
Elsewhere in the Maklarevalde's letter, he tersely outlined the little information known about the threat beyond the Arctic Circle, stressing the danger this posed not merely to the Company but the entire world if there is more than hot meteor debris cooking in the remnants of dread Olathoe. The mission offered her a position of great trust, notwithstanding the differences she had with the actions of the Company in previous times. Delgado also warned her to be on her guard against the forces of the Ice, in whatever form they might present themselves.

Shawnee: The sleepy frontier hamet of Ubar in Kaskinapo woke one morning in early 1753 to the dreaded thup-thup-thup sound of airship engines turning over. As the citizens cowered in fear, a troop of Shawnee infantry jogged out onto a newly cleared meadow, snatching at the landing lines of a vast, black shape drifting down out of a cold grey sky.

"Stand to the landing grapples!"

Captain Pasternak, commanding the ARF airship Archaeopteryx, leaned out the window of the command gondola and waved cheerily at the Shawnee officers staring up from below. Within minutes the rest of his air flotilla - more than twenty zeppelins - were jostling for landing positions on the crude airfield.

These Shawnee are a dour lot, the captain mused, hours later, a cup of hot koka steaming in his hands. The airfield was swarming with activity as the Shawnee guardsmen wrestled huge bales of cargo, strings of yapping dogs, barrels of kerosene and a long human chain of ammunition boxes into the cargo holds of his ships. But they should come in useful in the pinch.

Pasternak set the cup down, peering off into the black northern sky. No aurora, he realized with relief. Maybe <they> are truly gone.

His human heart wished fervently for it to be so, but a sick queasiness in his stomach bade otherwise. The combined expedition launched the next day, marking a course north and west for the distant Ice.

Approaching the Barrier of Winds
Pasternak clambered forward along an icy gangway, hands - wrapped in sealskin and fleece - gripping tight to the guide rope. He forced open the hatch to the observation post and felt the rushing wind as a physical blow. The airman on watch squeezed aside to let the captain swing down into the cupola. Pasternak ignored the slit-eyed man, his own goggles blazing with the thin sun reflected from the snow-fields below.

"There!" The Inuto shouted, trying to force his voice above the shrieking wind. The captain nodded. The debris field was unmistakable. Two, perhaps three, airships were scattered across the side of the mountain. Metal and cloth winked in the pure white drifts. Pasternak was sure there had been crumpled bodies, once, though he doubted nothing remained but cracked and splintered bone now.

Having seen enough, the captain climbed back into the gangway and headed aft towards the bridge. Within minutes, the Archaeopteryx was circling and a ground-team of Shawnee knights was descending on ropes into the wreckage.

"Nisei (spit!) airships," the Shawnee lieutenant reported, several hours later. His heavily-gloved hands held a broken ships'-plate. "A new kind, rigged for work in the Ice."

"But not well enough," mused Pasternak. "Their engines will have iced up and failed… the boreal winds are very treacherous."

The Shawnee said nothing, watching the ARF captain's grim face with barely concealed fear.

"We will go on," Pasternak said, after a moment. "There was once a passage through the barrier…"

Beyond the Barrier of Winds
A single shot rang out, echoing back and forth among tumbled heat-scarred monoliths. Pasternak jerked awake and, snatching up a pistol, strode out of his tent. One of the sentries on the guard-tower at the southern corner of the camp was waving wildly at the sky. Shading his eyes with a hand against the blazing disk of the sun, the ARF captain looked up.

A dot grew against the white sky, swelling into the enormous shape of an air-ship. Not a zeppelin, no… not even one of the sleek, whale-like shapes of the Raptor-class airframe, but something like a ship.

"What in Hades is that?" The Shawnee captain Squanto had come up silently and now made to raise his rifle to a bronzed shoulder. "A thing of the Ice?"

"Ha!" Pasternak laughed and dug in his shirt-pocket for his pipe. "No… that can only be the Uraeus. I had thought her destroyed, but the world is filled with unexpected wonders."

The Shawnee captain glanced sideways at the ARF officer. Pasternak seemed deflated - or at least trapped in his own memories again.

"Do we fire upon her?"

The Russian shook his head. "Signal them down to land on the airfield. And call all the excavation crews back… though I suppose it's too late to keep the extent of our operation here secret."

The airship circled again and now Pasternak cursed aloud. The massive ship was flying an Aztec naval ensign alongside the plain green banner customarily associated with the mysterious Rangers.

Squanto caught sight of the red flag a moment later and his face screwed into a terrible grimace.

Above Old Olathoë, Where Once Lomar Held Sway
"Blessed mother of Tepeyac…" Lord Comargo, nominal commander of the Imperial Legion of the Smoking Sun, stared over the railing of the Uraeus, his jaw slack with awe. The airship was drifting down to land on a cleared field lined with the anchored shapes of European-style zeppelins.

At the Aztec's side, one of the Ranger forest-lords nodded his head, keen gray eyes scanning for danger. "Yes, evil raised a great edifice here… and it was cast into oblivion."

"Yes, yes it was." Comargo began to sweat, raising his eyes to take in the countless miles of shattered, broken earth reaching away to the ceaselessly shifting storm that marked the horizon. Inside the Barrier, the world seemed to shrink, bounded by the standing cloud-front and it's constant blaze of lightning. "As if the hand of God had reached down…"

The Ranger laughed - a sharp, hoarse bark - and turned a fierce eye upon the portly Náhuatl. "There are Gods and Gods, southerner. Do not mistake one for another."

Comargo gulped and nodded.

Below, a party of armed men in winter coats appeared from the ruins and approached the airship.

The Uraeus settled into the rubble, landing struts deploying to crunch into blistered stone.

1755 - 1756 T213
Beyond the Wall of Winds
Someone began to scream – a high, hopeless sound – and the ARF captain Pasternak bolted out of his dugout, loaded pistols in either hand. In the same instant, he heard the alarm bar clanging wildly and the sound of airship engines coughing to life.

Outside, the sun was a pale flat disc in the western sky, barely able to burn through the constantly-moving barrier of dark grey clouds circulating around the shattered wasteland of Olathoë. The broken city spread away from Pasternak in all directions, dotted here and there with wooden frames standing above the excavations shafts the Shawnee soldiers had dug into the ruins.

The ARF officer spun around slowly – the screaming had abruptly stopped – searching for some sign of… “Lord of the Heavens!”

To the south, between the Shawnee/ARF encampment and looming shape of the massive Ranger airship, something ebon-dark spilled up out of the ground like squid ink. Soldiers were scrambling away from the apparition, but Pasternak could see there were hundreds of shining lights inside the cloud, and the vague shapes of men writhing in horrific pain.

“Guns!” He screamed, bounding up a wooden walkway to the nearest observation town. His voice was almost drowned out by the roar of airship engines racing to life. Several ARF airships were already aloft, landing lines spooling back into their gondolas, men crowded at the windows. He waved wildly for a signal-man. “Soldier, signal the Peregrine to load napathene shot and… fire!”

Flags fluttered, raised, lowered. The black ink continued to boil up from whatever hidden chamber the diggers had broken into. Now Pasternak could see the burning lights were eyes.

The Peregrine swung ponderously over the ebon cloud and armored doors on the underside of the gondola racheted open. A gun boomed, flinging a fat napathene shell downwards. The shell plunged into the oily cloud and vanished.

“Fire!”

Other guns began to stutter, puffing white smoke, and explosions began to burst around the thing oozing out of the pit. Pasternak felt sweat bead on his forehead, despite the nearly-freezing air. The cloud continued to expand.

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