The events of the evening did not permit the tribes to rest and most kept their place in the great hall to discuss further the possibilities of the future and to distract themselves in tales of the past. As Hrothgar of the Wolf tribe regaled the assembled warriors with a portion of the Chronicles of Hrothskarl, the firelight of the torches and the hearth began to fail then suddenly swelled. Yet despite the surge of flame, a cold that defied even the heartiest of the tribesmen swept across the room. Powerful enough to make even Hrothgar falter in his story, the chilling draft seemed to draw figures in the center of the hall out of a hoary frost in the air.
As the three figures resolved themselves, color crept into their distinctly inhuman flesh. A humanoid, coated in sickly gray feathers with long, overly thin limbs, stood easily a head and shoulders taller than the tallest warrior of the Bear tribe. A vulturine head swayed at the end of a long neck as its yellow-eyes glinted in the receding firelight. Flanking the fiendish creature stood two slightly shorter figures, terrifying in their menacing beauty. Pale women seemingly carved from blocks of flesh with a finely honed blade, their allure was sundered by the delicately folded wings that shifted behind their bare shoulders. They stepped back from their larger counterpart in a deferral that carried as much disinterest as respect.
Even as the creature made a cruel mockery of a bow to the assembled leaders arrayed at the hall’s head table the stunned warriors only began to consider their weaponry. Yet the words came so clearly in the language of man that those assembled hesitated once more. “Greetings to you, tribes of Man, from my Lord and Patron. I am Hsthikla and I beg your pardon for the suddenness and gaucherie of my arrival but I bear a message of great import on this night of many discoveries.”
It was Gameed who found his tongue first. “You will find no pardon here. There is no message so important that the likes you need sully the stones of The Eyrie with your steps.”
“Again, your pardon please.” Somehow, the messenger’s beak split into a patronizing smile as it lifted itself effortlessly to hover above the floor. The hints of giggles from his escorts held the sounds of murdered calves. “But I must do the bidding of my Lord and deliver his offer of aid to you as you verge upon war with your enemies.”
“There will be no day that I require the aid of such as you!” Garl stood from the Bear tribe table and stalked towards the creature who pivoted his head slightly to watch the massive man’s approach.
“Wait,” hissed the creature suddenly but it was unclear if he spoke to Garl who had drawn and hurled a throwing axe towards the intruder or if he spoke to the female figure who darted forward to behead the warrior with a suddenness that spoke to the restraint of her eagerness until that moment. And, even in the swiftness of that instant, the axe’s path seemed clogged with the ice of a glacier, dragging to a halt close enough to the vulturine beast who dismissively knocked the weapon to the floor while its gaze once again returned to the tribes’ leaders.
He spoke to the woman-fiend who remained locked in her killing stance, the blood of Garl on the keen edge of her blade crackling like animal fat in a fire. The tongue was unfamiliar to all assembled but its tone and diction radiated waves of nausea even to those who tried not to listen. Returning to the language of man, the being’s speech became more clipped and impatient. “A final time I ask your pardon. I did not intend bloodshed here, despite my wishes my Lord demanded only—”
A sudden conflagration engulfed the creature who howled with fury as his escorts sprang from the blast, their fiendishly perfect flesh rendered no less unnatural by the blackening scorches. The vulture head swooped side to side like an enraged serpent seeking the source of its aggravation. So concerned were the tribes with the messenger’s rage that they only determined the cause of the blast by following its gaze.
Awash in flame stood a massive winged figure stepping through a fiery portal from some nether realm of horror. The heat dispelled any thought of cold from the hall and soon the massive wooden tables closest to the gateway began to blacken and smolder. With a bellow that seemed to shake the entirety of the hall, the terrifying monstrosity stormed forward. The first of the escorts stepped into his path with a series of blinding sword strikes that looked like sheets of silver in the air. Even as deep slashes drew gouts of blood from the creature, it lunged it’s clawed fist into the attacker’s chest, lifting her from the ground and casting her squealing form through the gateway behind him, her hair burning to cinders before she had even passed through the portal.
In that moment, the vulturine messenger spread its wings, an odor of foulness sweeping off of it as it took to the air, then dove into its foe with a flurry of talons and claws. Even in the brevity of the epic struggle the bloodshed was intense and those among the tribes who were touched by even a single droplet crumbled to the stone floor, seared and wracked with pain. The remaining escort assisted her charge, doing her best to avoid the barbed, sweeping tail that lashed her over and over as she closed to slash and stab with her blade.
The grappling melee drifted inexorably towards the gate but it was unclear as to who had the upper hand, which creature set the course. A thick, repugnant odor of burnt flesh and feathers choked the room as all of the creatures crossed the threshold and the passage shrunk to an impossibly bright point then guttered out like a forgotten candle as if daring anyone to speak of what they had witnessed by its light. Only the crackle of the small fires near the vanished gateway spoke of the truth of what transpired moments prior.
A single familiar voice finally scattered the silence like ashes. “Graz’zt sends another messenger. Make her welcome or a barrenness will rend from you your next generation of children and leave no one to recount the folly of your decision.”
And following that, the severed head of Garl became once again silent.