The Promise of Distant Thunder slowly came back to consciousness. The battle against Siegmund had been long and fierce, the hardest he’d ever faced in his long centuries of existence. He had put everything into the battle, fighting alongside Karl, Aengus and Dian-Cecht, yet it had not been enough. Siegmund had stolen from him that which he held most dear – the collected Ghulra of the 500-strong Legion That Waits. It left an aching, empty void where once pure divine Purpose had flowed.
Thunder slowly got back to his feet. He had been dragged back into the cave where the group had camped the night before, and wrapped in blankets. As a Warforged, he didn’t really feel the cold or damp, but still he appreciated his mortal companion’s concern. They were sat on the other side of the fire, watching him intently but silently.
Casting his mind back to the fight, Thunder recalled in perfect clarity the moment everything had come crashing down. The centaur Siegmund, the so-called Herald of Surtur, had charged at him and slammed him up against the rocky walls of the canyon. Trading blows, Thunder had for an instant seen an opening in his foe’s defence; a chance to strike true and deal a crippling wound to his enemy. Calling on the power of Kord, his own skill and above all the memories and experiences of the Legion to guide him, Thunder had swung his sword in a glittering arc.
Lazily, Siegmund had blocked it, twisted to one side and almost casually kicked Thunder to the ground. The arcane energies rippling around the Warlock had seared and frozen Thunder at the same moment, and the last thing he saw before he lost all memory was Siegmund reaching forward and starting to twist the Ghulra from his head.
Thunder stared into the fire. Why had he failed? He’d had no inkling, no premonition or warning that he was not following Kord’s wishes. The memories of the Legion had guided him to this place, to face Siegmund, in accordance with the teachings. You must face challenges head-on, surviving them and learning from them. Yet in doing this, he had been defeated and his power broken.
The fire crackled, a small shower of sparks lifting into the slowly lightening sky as dawn began. Slowly, the first embers of a great rage began to build with the Warforged. Everything in his existence, everything in his life, gone. His friends, bloodied and wounded. The responsibility he held towards all the Kingdoms of men, sundered from him and stolen by this creature of ice and flame. Most damning of all, the Ghulra, his divine connection to the will of Kord, wrenched from him and taken to be perverted by who knows what foul magics.
For the first time in over 600 years of existence, Thunder let his true feelings show. The steady decorum, the placid demeanor he wore at all times, vanished in an instant. Looking up from the fire, he met the gaze of his companions, and even Karl flinched slightly at what he saw there.
“I swear, by the blood I have spilt, by the leagues I have walked, by my life and work, I will hunt that bastard down and split him in two. As Kord has abandoned me in my time of need, when I called upon him, so I shall abandon Kord. The only power I can trust now is myself. The only action I can take is for myself. The only path I walk is the one I choose.”
Gripping his sword, he smashed the shield he had carried into splinters.
“Aengus, make me an axe. A big one. One sharp enough to hack a centaur to death. We’re going to find Serkeljof and the Knights, we’re going to lead them against Siegmund and we’re going to leave Beastmen corpses piled so high that a grown man would get tired climbing them. And if Serkeljof tries any of his oh-so-gentle sarcasm and mocking, I’ll remind him that I gave him that crown and I can take it back.”
Karl was grinning, ear to ear. Aengus wore a look that was a mixture of shock and glee. Even Dian’Sec seemed to have been affected.
“Come on, fleshies. Time to show the Swordlands what a seriously pissed off Warforged can do when he’s in the mood.”
“Right-o, Thunder…” started Karl.
“That name doesn’t fit any more,” interrupted the Warforged. “Call me… call me Howl. That’s what I am now, a Final Howl Against the End.”