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"This is an Imaginary Story... aren't they all?"

~Alan Moore

Santa Prisca

October 16, 00:52 ECT


Shadows stalked the sweltering jungle under a waxing silver moon. One in particular made her way from branch to branch, footsteps making no more sound than a falling leaf.

The shadow paused only to allow the occasional patrol to pass, willing her breath to a still trickle. She knew swift discipline would inevitably follow the instant she was discovered. Though she suspected her Sensei would be far more disappointed that she got caught than that she snuck out of the compound in the dead of night.

With slow painstaking stealth, the shadow made her way to a place where the thick jungle yielded to a sheer grey cliff that plunged into the dark blue waters of the Caribbean.

She secured a cable to a sturdy enough tree and began repelling down the granite cliff face, coming to cave opening just a few meters above the waterline. She crawled through the winding passage until it finally opened into a gaping cavern.

She reached into the darkness, finding the old torch exactly where she had left it. The striking of flint and warm orange light filled the chamber, revealing ancient carved pillars and broken statues of long-forgotten gods.

Only then did Cassandra Savage feel secure enough to remove her mask. She made her way to a vine-choked four-armed statue representing Atabey; the primordial mother goddess of the Taíno who originally inhabited this island.

She wedged her torch into a rocky crack before clearing away a pile of what was carefully constructed to look like random debris from the foot of the statue, revealing a heavy tome bound in brown leather with three slash marks cut into its cover.

Cassandra hesitated, fingers tracing the frayed spine. She should have destroyed this book weeks ago. She had no idea what her father would do if he ever found out she had defied him. Which was ultimately exactly why she had kept Olympia's Journal.

All her life, Cassandra's father had been like a god to her; distant and unknowable. This journal was her first and possibly last chance to know her father, if not as a mortal, then at least as a man.

Cassandra steadied her breath as she opened the tome, flickering through thin yellowed pages until something caught her eye.

The path of an immortal is a solitary one. For fifty millennia, the Savior has walked this earth, seeking those who might share His vision for humanity's future. This is the story of one such soul, and how the Savior bestowed upon him the gift of Enlightenment.


Magh Slécht, Éire

642 A.D.

Heavy rain beat down on the twelve vaguely man-like megaliths that crowned the old hill, forming a steady incessant drumbeat with the chanting of the countless wild half-naked figures that danced about them.

"Iä! Crom-Cruach!"

"Iä! Crom-Cruach!"

"Iä! Crom-Cruach!"

At the center of the dance, stood a figure clad in the hooded robes of a druid with a golden sickle hanging from his belt. He raised a single gnarled hand, fingers like grasping branches with skin like dried bark, and the celebrants suddenly fell silent.

"And there came a day when the Old Gods died," intoned Blackbriar Thorn portentously, words reverberating against the ancient stone. "Or so the disciples of the New God would have us believe. But I say to you that the Old Gods are not dead but merely dreaming…"

He paused, letting his cultists stew in anticipation just a bit.

"Awaiting the day when we might awaken Them to wash these isles clean of all who have forsaken the Old Ways with a purifying tide of blood!"

Scattered cheers erupted here and there, only for Thorn to silence them with another gesture.

"But that is only the beginning, my children. Once we have reclaimed these isles for the Old Gods, we shall raise a mighty host to follow in the steps of our forefathers," Thorn bellowed. "And march on Rome itself!"

The assembled cultists cast aside all semblance of self-control, breaking into a chorus of bloody oaths and ecstatic frenzy.

Thorn merely smiled as he drew the blade of his golden sickle across the palm of his hand, allowing drops of something more like tree-sap than human blood to trickle upon the soil.

The earth below churned and shifted beneath the cultists' feet. Soon the entire mound began to stir like a thing alive. Thorn stepped back as the very ground before him began to crack, disgorging a massive form like some titanic maggot.

The thing's skin was a sickly green, its maw a mass of chittering mandibles, and its eyes a blank milky white; yet glittering with baleful intelligence. It shook a layer of topsoil from its back like a hound shaking off water, before unleashing a piercing inhuman wail that seemed to shake the firmament above.

Even Thorn was momentarily taken aback, needing a moment to recollect himself before falling prostrate before the Death Worm.

"Mighty Crom, Lord of the Mound," intoned Thorn. "We, Your humble children, have awakened You from the dreamless sleep You were cast into by the thrice-cursed priest of the New God. We offer ourselves in service to You, as You see fit."

The Death Worm eyed Thorn's withered form for a moment, before turning its attention towards one of the somewhat more fleshy cultists. Within the space of a heartbeat, the titan maggot had snapped up the prostrate cultist and swallowed him whole before turning on the next.

The Death Worm had made its way through almost a third of Thorn's followers before the druid fully registered what was happening, understanding now why the ancient songs had always spoken of Crom as a god best worshiped at a safe distance.

Thorn's normally deep tones gave way to a high-pitched shriek of blind panic as he made a fevered dash to the relative safety of the forest. He'd made it about halfway to the treeline before slamming into what felt like a wall of solid granite.

Thorn fell back on his arse, damp turf soaking into his robe. He pulled back his hood, only to be confronted by a savage countenance glaring down upon him coldly.

The savage was clad in an assortment of furs and armor. A sword of Babylonian steel and a heavy iron chain hung from his leather belt. His black beard was flowing and unkempt and his eyes hard as flint. His skin was bronzed by foreign suns, save for three thin pale scars marring his stony visage.

Six other warriors flanked the savage, a gaunt man with blood-red hair save for a single streak of white, a dark-skinned and green-eyed woman in the dress of a traveling fortune teller, a roguishly handsome Saracen in flowing robes, a giantess bearing steel bracelets about her wrists, a slender beardless youth in rusted armor that once must have shined like gold, and a silent woman on horseback.

The savage turned his attention from Thorn, eyeing the Death Worm rampaging in the distance like a surgeon planning his first incision.

"Exoristos, Blood," he spoke in a voice like grinding granite.

"Aye, Stone," answered the giantess, grabbing the pale red-haired man and hurling him at the titan maggot with superhuman force. "Sorry, Jason!"

"Gone, Gone, the form of man," Blood chanted as he flew through the air, hellish flame burning away mortal flesh to reveal the horror that lurked beneath. "Rise, the Demon ETRIGAN!"

In Blood's stead now soared a hulking yellow-skinned demonic form, wreathed in flame like a comet. The Demon struck the Death Worm with all the force of an anvil tossed from Mulciber's forge, berserker laughter mixing freely with wails of fury as the two monsters trashed and clawed viciously at each other.

At some unspoken command from their god, the twelve megaliths crowning the hill began to move under their own power. Blank faces, save for two hollows were eyes should be, turned their malignant attention on the remaining warriors.

"Exoristos, Nimue, Al Jabr, Ystin, destroy the idols," intoned Stone, drawing his blade. "Horsewoman, provide cover fire."

"What a magnificent construct," mused the white-robed Saracen, dodging under a flying rocky fist. "I wonder what powers it?"

"Zounds, Al Jabr! Just fell the brute! You can dissect it later!" cried the dark-skinned fortune teller, her eyes blazing with unearthly light. "Fulminous venite!"

A bolt of lightning fell from the heavens, shattering a living idol like glass.

"Fair point, Madame Nimue," conceded Al Jabr, drawing four small vials of greenish liquid and tossing them directly at his opponent's joints.

Glass shattered as the strange fluid began to instantly bubble and hiss on contact with naked rock. The rocky construct fell helpless on its featureless face, its very knees and elbows dissolving into sludge.

"BACK TO TARTARUS WITH YOU!" Bellowed Exoristos, taking another idol's head clean off with a swing of her hefty warhammer. "Keeping pace, Ys?"

"I'm doing fine, Ex," cried the youth in once shining armor, his sword slicing the legs out from under yet another idol. "You?"

The two warriors stood back to back as for more idols began to circle them.

"Having the time of my life," Exoristos grinned, hefting her warhammer. "But I'd feel better on higher ground."

"Say no more," replied Ystin, giving a high-pitched whistle. "Nike! Here, girl!"

A snow-white horse suddenly dived out of the grey clouds, soaring on sleek feathered wings. The pegasus alighted just long enough for Ystin and Exoristos to mount before taking to the skies once more.

"Great Hera," Exoristos grumbled, arms tight about Ystin's waist. "I swear this beast likes you more than she ever liked me!"

"To be fair," spoke Ystin, flashing Exoristos a roguish smile. "You like me better than you ever liked her too."

"True," Exoristos conceded with a smirk, tightening her grip about Ystin's waist ever so slightly.

"Onward, Nike!" cried Ystin with maniacal mirth, holding his sword aloft. "We meet death laughing!"

One by one, the living idols fell until Stone raised his blade of Babylonian steel to deliver the final kill, only for a rocky fist to grab his sword-arm in mid-swing. Stone's scarred lips peeled back in a silent snarl as he balled his free hand into a fist and struck the idol's rocky visage with all his might.

The idol recoiled back, clutching at the crumbling gravel that had once been its smooth rocky face, before Stone's blade sliced its body in twain.

"Merciful God, Stone," Al Jabr exclaimed breathlessly. "Your hand?!"

Stone glanced down at the shapeless mass of bloody pulp and splintered bones that had been his iron fist only moments ago.

"No matter," he spoke impassively. "It will heal in good time."

Another piercing inhuman shriek rang out across the plain. Crom flicked Etrigan into the air like a cat toying with a mouse, before snapping up the flailing Demon and swallowing him whole.

"JASON!?" Madame Nimue cried in despair.

Crom turned its attention on what remained of Stone's warriors. It coiled to strike, only to suddenly begin twisting and writhing in agony. Its innards distended grotesquely before exploding in an inferno of hellish flame, leaving nothing of the Death Worm save a clinging green mist slowly seeping back into ancient mound.

Nimue was the first to recover from the blast, attempting to clamber back to her feet only to be abruptly pinned under Etrigan's hulking weight.

"Now, sweet Nimue," the Demon drawled wickedly, forked tongue lolling obscenely from his fanged leer. "I believe I'm owed a small... reward."

"Etrigan, please," Nimue pleaded. "Perhaps another-"

The Demon's yellow talons clamped down on Nimue's mouth.

"I was not asking permission," he hissed.

Before the Etrigan could make another move, a chain of cold iron whipped about his neck. The Demon snarled hatefully as he was yanked back like an unruly hound.

"Revert to Blood, Etrigan," Stone snarled coldly, drawing the chain tight with his good hand.

Etrigan choked out something unintelligible regarding Stone's parentage.

Stone gave the chain a short sharp tug. "Do not test me, Demon."

"Gone now, O Etrigan," the Demon hissed petulantly, inhuman features melting away like smoke. "And rise again, the form of man!"

Stone released the chain, allowing the once more human Blood to collapse into Nimue's lap.

"Nimue..." he gasped weakly. "Did... did the Demon hurt...?"

"Shhh, Jason," Nimue cooed. "There's been no harm done."

"Uh, Stone?" interjected Ystin, pointing out the fleeing form of Blackbriar Thorn in the distance.

Stone's eyes narrowed. "Horsewoman."

The silent rider drew back a single arrow and let it fly. A moment later, Thorn crumpled to the ground with another high-pitched shriek.



Stone unwrapped the bandages covering his hand, flexing his fingers gingerly. They stung slightly, newly regrown flesh still pink and glistening in the glow of the campfire.

"How much did you say the High King would pay us for that refuse, Stone?" asked Nimue, an exhausted Blood dozing in her lap. She gestured to the bound and gagged Blackbriar Thorn, lashed to one of the trees he so resembled.

"One hundred each," Stone intoned.

Nimue cocked an eyebrow. "Gold pieces... diamonds...?"

"Heads of cattle," answered Stone, cutting a slice of roasted venison from the spit hanging over the fire.

"CATTLE!?" Nimue exclaimed. "We went through that Hell just to be paid in bloody cows!?"

"It is the primary means by which the lords of Éire measure their wealth, Nimue," spoke Stone. "Queen Maeve herself once plunged this entire isle into bloody war just to possess the Brown Bull of Cooley."

"She didn't have to worry about getting a herd of cattle across the Irish Sea," Nimue spat. "What do you expect me to do, Stone, stuff them under my skirt?!"

"What matter?" interjected Ystin, comfortably nestled in the crook of Exoristos' arm. "So long as the bards sing of this victory unto the day when a New Camelot rises from the ashes of the Old."

"Well, I wouldn't quite phrase it like that," spoke Al Jabr, tinkering with some outlandish piece of clockwork. "But I do agree with Ystin's essential sentiment. What matters, in the end, is the good we did, not the material reward."

"You can't eat good deeds, Al Jabr," Nimue sniped.

"No," Al Jabr smirked. "But you can eat beef."

Nimue scowled. "Horsewoman, back me up!"

The taciturn equestrian simply shrugged, keeping watch from her steed's saddle.

Blood abruptly bolted from Nimue's lap in a cold sweat.

"Jason?" spoke Nimue. "What's wrong?"

"It's Etrigan," Blood panted. "I can feel him roiling inside me."

"Is he trying to escape?" asked Ystin, reaching for his sword.

"Not exactly... something is coming," gasped Jason. "And it terrifies him."

Tendrils of chill pale mist began snaking their way about the trees, surrounding the small campfire.

"To arms," spoke Stone coolly as he drew his sword, his warriors following suit. "Horsewoman, watch the prisoner."

The Horsewoman gave a curt nod, notching an arrow as she eyed Thorn's squirming throat.

The six warriors stalked cautiously through the chilling mist until they came to a large clearing where loomed a cyclopean castle of polished grey-white limestone.

"I'm fairly certain that wasn't there an hour ago," spoke Exoristos warily, raising her warhammer.

A figure strode out from the castle's open gates. He was clad in monkish robes, a heavy green hood casting his face in shadow.

Stone and his warrior raised their weapons, muscles tensing.

"No need for that, my friends," the monk chuckled lightly, drawing back his hood to reveal a pale angelic face framed by soft golden curls. "Hello, Nimue, Jason. It's been a long time, hasn't it?"

Nimue's brow furrowed as Jason's eyes widened.



Castle Carbonek

Fog banks rolled beyond the castle's battlements, occasionally parting to reveal glimpses of sweltering jungles, desolate tundra, and far-flung cities. The ever-shifting landscape beyond the mist was never the same twice.

"Remarkable," Al Jabr spoke in awe, gazing out over the parapet. "I wonder how it works?"

"What do you mean 'how does it work'?" scoffed Exoristos, warhammer slung jauntily over her shoulders. "It's a magic traveling castle. It just does."

"Even so-called 'magic' must be subject to natural laws and rational principles, Exoristos," answered Al Jabr. "Though I admit, it would take a vaster mind than mine to decipher this."

"This isn't just any magic traveling castle, Ex," spoke Ystin with awe, patting Nike's flank. "This is Carbonek, the castle of the Fisher King, resting place of the Holy Grail itself."

"The holy what?" asked Exoristos, arching an eyebrow.

"The cup from which Yeshua ben Miriam and his followers drank the night he was betrayed, and given up to be crucified," Stone spoke softly, his gaze lost in the swirling mist. "The receptacle that carried his blood across the Empire from Judea to Albion."

"You know, Stone," spoke Al Jabr. "For an avowed pagan, you're surprisingly well versed in the lives of the Prophets?"

"I was there," intoned Stone darkly, disappearing into a shadowed archway.

"I hate when he says things like that," sighed Al Jabr. "I can never tell when he's joking."


Stone stalked through the cool darkened corridors of the castle, his sandaled feet making no more sound than the falling dust. The architecture was far beyond anything he'd ever seen in these isles before, limestone slabs smoothly polished and fitted together seamlessly, finer than anything the Romans built.

He eventually came to a gallery overlooking the castle's throne room, quietly ducking into the shadow of an ornately carved pillar.

Below, stood seven figures in a loose circle. Stone immediately recognized Nimue and Blood, of course, as well as the man they called Peredur. By the Fisher King's side stood a slender regal woman with braided hair of pale gold, clad in a gown of green.

Next, there was a woman of Nimue's exact height and build, clad in a robe of deepest purple. A mask of gold obscured her features, but could not hide the glare of contempt with which she regarded the fortune-teller.

The remaining two figures were by far the strangest. A lady of almost unearthly beauty, her lily-white hair and samite gown seemed to float about her as though suspended underwater.

By her side stood a gigantic knight clad in armor of deepest emerald green. Even his skin and thick bush-like beard were green. The only exception was the iron-grey blade of the immense ax he held before him.

"Thank you again, my friends," spoke Peredur in his lilting, almost musical voice. "I know you've all traveled far to be here tonight."

"Enough simpering pleasantries, Grail King," sneered the gold-masked woman, cold metallic-tinged voice eerily like Nimue's own. "What do you want?"

"Direct as always, Queen le Fay," Peredur chuckled softly. "Very well, I trust you are all aware of what this night is? One hundred years to the day since the Battle of Camlann, a hundred years since Camelot fell and Arthur was carried away to Avalon."

"We were all there, Peredur," spoke Nimue quietly, fixing the Fisher King with a glare. "Well, some of us."

"Quite, Madame Nimue," spoke Peredur, only the slightest edge in his voice. "Merlin himself foretold that Arthur would return to us in the twenty-second century of our history when an evil from beyond the very stars would descend upon our world."

Stone bristled at this, his idle curiosity turning to intent fascination.

"But what kind of world will Arthur return to?" Peredur implored. "In the space of just one short century, Britain has degenerated into almost complete lawlessness. Saxon chiefs war for territories like vultures squabbling over a corpse and the Continent is hardly much better."

The strange samite clad Lady's brow furrowed suspiciously. "What exactly are you suggesting, Peredur fab Ragnal?"

"The seven of us are all that remains of Old Camelot, but we can also be the foundations of a New Camelot," spoke Peredur. "We can be the light that guides mankind through this age of darkness and fear, a society dedicated to uniting humanity in preparation for the Once and Future King's rule. All we need do is-"

"Enough!" The white-haired Lady cut off the Fisher King with a gesture. "What you propose is a blatant violation of Oberon's Law. Have you forgotten that Sir Bercilak and I are bound from interfering in mortal affairs?"

"The law that cannot be broken can surely be bent?" Peredur suggested.

"No, Fisher King. We attended this summit merely as a courtesy but we shall not be a party to any such sophistry," the Lady spoke, turning to the Green Knight. "I trust we are in agreement, Sir Bercilak?"

The Green Knight nodded.

"Then it is decided," the Lady spoke with finality before vanishing in a splash of foam, leaving only a small puddle where she stood. The Green Knight swiftly followed suit, disappearing in a flurry of autumn leaves.

"I have my own plans for my dear brother's return," spoke le Fay. She strode imperiously from the throne room, pausing only to regard Nimue and Blood evilly. "Alas, I fear not all of us will be here to greet him on his awakening."

Blood went for his sword, only for Nimue to stay his hand.

Peredur turned to the only two left. "Nimue, Jason... please."

"I'm sorry, Peredur, but Jason and I long ago promised each other not to spend eternity living in Camelot's shadow," spoke Nimue, turning to leave. "Nostalgia is a dangerous thing for an immortal."

Nimue and Blood stepped through a shaded archway, leaving the Fisher King alone in his cold empty throne room.

Stone cocked a brow, where was...?

"Looking for the chamber pots?"

Stone turned, only to be confronted by the pale gold haired woman who stood by Peredur's side only moments ago. He was begrudgingly impressed. After almost fifty millennia of life, he could still count the number of mortals capable of getting the drop on him on one hand.

"Indeed," Stone intoned. "I seem to have lost my bearing, Lady...?"

"Queen Blanchefleur," she responded icily.

"Ah, your husband then?" Stone cocked his head at the solitary figure below. "He is quite eloquent. I'm surprised no one was willing to accept his proposal?"

"Peredur's grasp sometimes extends his reach," spoke the Grail Queen. "But regardless, you'd be more comfortable awaiting Nimue and Jason in the courtyard with the rest of your band."

"No need," spoke Stone. "I'm in no great haste."

"My apologies, I seem to have given you the mistaken impression I was making a request. Permit me to rephrase that more directly," drawled Blanchefleur, leaning close. "Bugger off."

Stone said nothing in response, bowing low before taking his leave.

"She may present a problem," he grumbled to himself.


Peredur fab Ragnal knelt before the altar of his private chapel. Hours or days might have passed since the disastrous summit with the other survivors of Camelot. He could not say for certain. Time passed strangely in Carbonek.

Normally, Peredur would find the cool quiet of the chapel comforting. Now though, the empty silence only seemed to mock his prayers with its indifference.

"Please," he whispered to the void. "Just... tell me what to do?"

"Perhaps, He already has?"

Peredur leaped to his feet as a scarred warrior stepped out of the chapel's shadows and into the light.

"My apologies for intruding, Grail King," the warrior spoke softly as he knelt. "But I could not leave this castle in good conscience without speaking to you first."

"It's alright," Peredur replied uncertainly. "You're one of Nimue and Jason's friends, aren't you?"

"I am called Vandar o' the Stone... among other things," answered the warrior, rising to his feet. "And I know something of the horrors that stalk the Outer Dark beyond our world, knowledge I would place at your disposal."

"Yes," Peredur narrowed his eyes. "Blanchefleur mentioned you 'overheard' me making a fool of myself."

"The others were short-sighted. Still, I have no doubt you will succeed in your goals, my king," spoke Vander, smiling faintly. "Especially with such a loyal queen at your side."

Peredur winced.

"Did I... misspeak?"

"It's nothing, I..." sighed Peredur. "I just wish my own wife had as much faith in me as some wandering mercenary seems to."

Stone placed a hand on the Fisher King's shoulder. "I'm sure she'll come to see the light, eventually."

"Not that I don't appreciate your... ardor, friend Vandar," spoke Peredur. "But I really don't see what we can do for one another. I have little to offer in terms of material wealth, and you..."

"Material wealth is ephemeral, I've won and lost a thousand fortunes over my lifetime," answered Stone. "As for what I can offer you..."

Stone drew a dagger and sliced open his own palm with one clean motion, only for the wound to seal almost as quickly as it had been inflicted.

"Mother of God!" Peredur swore, crossing himself. "You... you're one of us, an immortal?!"

"I am old, Grail King," intoned Stone solemnly. "Old enough to have watched the oceans drink Atlantis, old enough to have outlived my own gods, old enough to remember secrets mankind had long forgotten before they even learned how to write them down."

"And you would offer me these secrets?" Peredur asked warily.

"More than that," answered Stone. "I can direct you towards ancient talismans, powerful allies, and lands beyond any maps you have ever seen. I might even be able to convince Madame Nimue and Blood to reconsider your proposal?"

"And in exchange?"

"I ask only the opportunity to help you guide humanity, strengthening them for the coming Armageddon," intoned Stone, offering his hand.

Peredur hesitated for a moment, before gripping Stone's arm in a warrior's handshake.

"I do have one question, though," spoke Stone. "What do you intend to call this... society of yours?"

"I... I hadn't really given it much thought, to be honest," Peredur answered sheepishly. "Did you have a suggestion?"

Stone's scarred lips curled upward in a cold smile.


Santa Prisca

October 16, 01:16 ECT


Cassandra slammed the journal shut, hands shaking. She wanted to learn more about her father but now wondered if some things were best left unlearnt. She knew she stood at a precipice, one more step and there would be no going back, no telling where she might land.

She tossed the journal in a nearby pot, piling in scraps of old rope and dried dead vines to provide kindling. By sunrise, she would be back in her bunk and Olympia's journal would be ash like it never existed.

Like Olympia never existed.

Cassandra hesitated, her still hand holding aloft the still-burning torch, filling the shadow-haunted ruins with light.

Never the End…