Prologue - From Below

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Aeons ago,


Back before the coming of man. Back before, even the first dinosaurs started to roam the newly formed lands and shallow seas. Farther back. Even before the first microscopic organism began to climb from the fledgeling planet's steaming primordial soup. A huge ship of stone smashed into the planet, it broke through the cooling mantle and embedded itself deep within the earth's molten interior.

For countless millennia, the seeding ship had travelled from its home in the far reaches of the universe. It had seen the birth and death of many suns on its journey across the galaxies. Then a chance encounter with the darkness that lurked between the stars had thrown it off course and sent it spinning out of control into our solar system.

For an eternity, the ship lay buried beneath the surface. For a ship designed for the violent extremes of space travel, it lay untouched by the boiling molten rock that bound it. All around it, the earth began cooling and as it did so the first signs of life started to appear on the surface.

 Time passed...

Then in the shadows deep within the vast ship, something stirred.

Creatures placed in stasis to survive the rigours of a long space journey... awoke. 

Creatures of an ancient star-spanning race.

They bided their time, rebuilding, spreading out beneath the earth's surface. Turning the ship and its surroundings into a great vast underground city. For a while, they remained hidden within the confines of their city plotting their next move...

Then, using their star-crossed magic and technology, they opened portals which allowed them access to the surface world. This brought them into contact with the first of the Faerie races that would rule the earth before the coming of man. 

Chief among these races were the Elves. 

A terrible war broke out between them and the creatures, a war of magic and ancient star-crossed sciences. The nameless creatures were few and the Elves were many, they sought out the portals and destroyed them, forcing the beings from beyond the stars back into their underground city. Using Elven magic, an impenetrable barrier that enclosed the city was created, its great doorway — the only way in or out — was sealed with chains of magical energy.

With time, The Chained, as they came to be known, were consigned to the Elven histories and forgotten. 

But the creatures did not forget.

Deep in their underground city, they bred and grew stronger. And used their ancient magic to seek a way out of the darkness.

They had not succeeded until... 


Now,

A blanket of silence covered the little clearing that sat way back in the deepest part of Whytewytch Wood. Above it, the craggy bulk of the Warlocks Chair loomed, washed by a silvery half-moon that hung in the sky directly overhead. 

The trees surrounding the clearing stood dark and tightly packed — as if to prevent intrusion into the little world that lay there. A mist, chilled and wispy, wound its way phantom-like around the thick trunks. With the arrival of autumn, the leafy canopy had started thinning, the remaining leaves a pale palette of colour picked out in the moonlight. The floor of the clearing was covered with a deep layer of freshly fallen leaves, brambles, and nettles, lit by a stray moonbeam that peeked down through the treetops.

The air grew suddenly warmer, charged with electricity. From deep within the earth, a low rumbling started, growing ever louder. The ground began to tremble and shake. In the tangled undergrowth, four large stones tore themselves free of the earth, in a tangle of ivy and brambles they rose skyward. They climbed several feet into the air, spinning and circling slowly; as if seeking out their correct position. Abruptly they stopped, hanging in the air like the four points of a compass. Through a covering of moss and lichen, glyphs scored deep into the surface of the ancient stones, began to glow with a mysterious unearthly light. The void between the stones hummed and crackled with energy, turning inky black, darker even than the surrounding woodland.

Out of the blackness, a clawed hand appeared, followed swiftly by a heavily muscled limb. It seemed to grasp at the air, struggling frantically to get a grip on something. Another limb pushed through, also clasping at the air. Then the creature's head appeared, horned and armoured. A forked yellow tongue, dripping poison, flicked out between jagged-toothed jaws. It tasted the air. Heaving once more, it dragged its reptile-like body through the dark portal. Rear legs scrabbled and pushed seeking purchase. Then the clawed feet seemed to grip something unseen, and with a strangled gasp, the creature propelled itself out into the clearing. Once its heavy spiked tail dropped clear, the humming and crackling ceased, the stones fell to the ground, and except for the ragged gasping of the creature, all was silent once again.   

It lay where it had fallen, gathering its strength. The journey from The Crypt to the surface world had been an arduous one. Only the strongest of the Magus priests had been selected to try. 

And it had barely made it. 

The creature stirred, already feeling stronger. It hauled itself up onto its legs and stretched, muscles corded beneath the armoured carapace that protected it. It twisted snake-like, testing itself. 

All appeared well.

The head lifted. Eyes, burning like red-hot coals gazed up through the trees at the patch of ebony sky where the moon and stars shone brightly. It reared up on its hind legs, using its tail for support. Throwing back its head it let out an unearthly scream. It studied the night sky, a sight it, —nor any of its kind—had looked upon for countless millennia.

Its tongue flicked out once more tasting the air, sifting through the various odours that assailed its senses. It detected the scent it was seeking. Very faint but it was there, drifting in the cool night air. 

Once more it screamed shrilly into the surrounding woodlands.

Serpent-like it slipped into the trees, following the faint trail towards its enemies.

Before long the Chained would gain their revenge.

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