Chapter 37: Fire

There are ways to try to wrap the mortal mind around the Planes of Power but all of them fail to grasp the entire picture. Some view the Planes as a scale, with Norrath at the center and the planes spreading down to each end. The further down one side you travel, the more extreme the Planes become. On one side you have Innoruuk's domain, the Plane of Hate. On the other is the realm of Tunare, the Plane of Growth.

Others see the Planes as a great sphere surrounding us. If we start at the center of this sphere, we see planes similar to our own world of Norrath. The Plane of Knowledge and its stones of travel, for example, resemble many cities of Norrath. This pocket-world, however, makes it possible to travel from Halas to Felwithe with fifteen foot steps. It shortens the distances between two points in our world as if folding our lands to bring these two points together. Yet the Plane of Knowledge is little different than our own, though it would seem to have encapsulated all of Norrath in a single walled city. If we look at a further layer we begin to see extremes. The Plane of Valor and its garrisons of immortal paladins sit on one side, forged in eternal battles against the chaotic beasts of the Glasslands. The Plane of Torment and its eternal willingness to torture all inside for an eternity rots on the other. One is unable to see where the black chains that hold up the eternal cells of Torment lead. Perhaps there are no chains.

In the furthest of these layers known to us are the elements. Their deities are beyond our comprehension of good or evil. They serve our world at its most fundamental layers. How would we choose to align water when it both feeds our crops with rain or destroys our cities in floods? How do we choose to fit fire into our primitive beliefs when it keeps our children warm at night or sends armies screaming into the abyss? And how can we possibly comprehend these worlds were we to visit them? Is our mind able to even attach images onto what we might fix our eyes upon? Do we stretch ourselves beyond our own boundaries of reality by even stepping foot inside? We may never know. One can only wonder what our mortal lives would face in such levels of extremity. And one can only wonder what lies beyond.

- Maelin Starpyre, Grand Librarian of Myrist

The air cracked and the portal opened, sucking the hot air of Fire back through. Loral fell, landing hard on one knee and a hand placed out to balance himself. His eyes were closed. The air around him singed his skin but the heavy enchantments on his armor protected him from what otherwise would have burned his skin off his bones. Slowly he looked up and opened his eyes to behold the outer world around him. What he saw almost sent him into shock.

Eternal flames scorched the sky. The volcanic mountains towered around him, streams of lava pouring from their peaks. Huge ancient trees burned like a thousand candles over the charred ground in front of him. From within the dense burning forest he could see the movements of living flame and he could hear the clicking of many legs on the hard cracked ground. There were enemies about and Loral had no doubt that should they discover him, they would kill him.

A hand gripped Loral's coif and hoisted him off of his feet. Shaken, he turned and saw the smile and shining eyes of Tera the swordswoman of Halas. Many battles he had faced with the powerful yet graceful bladewielder, some deep within the Halls of Testing, the ancient temple of the dragons of Velious. The air cracked again and with a crash of steel on rock stood a monument of power, Grongl the Warlord. He leaned on the sharp Blade of War and stood. Three long but sure strides took him to the top of a large obsidian rock. There he beheld the burning lands of Doomfire. He sneered. Loral had little doubt that the General was more at home in these horrid lands than anywhere on Norrath. The powerful troll leaned the long curved blade on his shoulder and turned. A cheer from the other members of Lotus Cult flowed across the lands as Grongl held the blade high and pointed it to the north. From behind the crowd, Binedina and her advisors smiled. The battle was on.

The raiding party moved along the volcanic mountains around the burning forest and to a river of lava. A great wall split the lands in half, guarded by dozens of Fennin's guardians. Their burning spears glittered in the dark smoke. The raiding party floated onto the upper platforms and in a score of fierce battles they breached the walls and approached the dark side of the burning lands, closer to the city of Fennin Ro.

The party met the minions of Fennin Ro in force. Huge elemental flames, hundreds of times stronger than those that walked Norrath, unleashed waves of lava over the warriors. All about the skies were great winged demons, the fire reflecting off of their thick red skin. Some were as large as the guardian, Xuzl. Some were even larger.

The horrible sounds of Doomfire grew quiet as they approached a narrow bridge suspended over a chasm of lava. Six scouts moved forward, their eyes peering into the smoke ahead. Without warning, a twelve foot spike, pierced through the chest of their leader, pinning him to the ground. Out of the smoke came an vision out of Loral's deepest nightmares, Babnoxis the Spider Queen. Over thirty feet high and almost ninety feet across from her massive legs, the giant spider roared down upon the party. Arrows skimmed across her thick black shell and the spider countered with streams of venom from shining fangs. A dreadful scream filled the heads of the raiders, the ancient voice of the spider queen, spewing forth malice and terror in a language five thousand years dead. Loral felt a rage build inside him. He held his hand towards the black demon-queen and called upon Tunare's Condemnation.

The roar of Xuzl filled Loral's head as energy poured out of his hand and blasted into the thick shell. The shell cracked and Babnoxis screamed in Loral's mind, bringing him to his knees. Loral heard the laugh of Xuzl behind the scream of Babnoxis, the shield burning upon Loral's arm. Loral clenched his jaw and stood to behold the battle. The enchanted blades of the Cult, forged in the outer planes themselves, cut deep into the joints of Babnoxis's living armor. With a final cry to her lord, the ancient beast fell dead.

A voice boomed out across the burning lands and the council of flame was unleashed. The greatest of Fennin's creation, the inner circle of Fennin's most powerful and loyal demons, roared to life and fell in from the burning sky. Falling back to a narrow bridge, the war party faced each of the demons in turn. Azobian the Darklord, Blazzax the Omnifiend, Hebabbilys the Ragelord, Javonn the Overlord, Reaxnous the Chaoslord, and Omni Magus Crato attacked the party one by one in two horrible hours of battle. Columns of flame could be seen for miles. The thick obsidian ground broke apart swallowing and crushing those unfortunate enough to step near. Loral clutched his symbol of Tunare close, sending beams of healing light onto the fallen when he could. All about him the battle raged.

The war party never broke ranks. Each member protected the next as the horrible beasts attacked. The perfect synergy of magic power, enchanted steel, icy arrows, and blue waves of life was beyond the chaotic strategies of Fennin's high council. With a final spear of ice ripping through the torso of the great Omni Magus, the final arch demon fell dead. Deep in his chambers of burnt stone, Fennin Ro stood alone. The war party approached.

Two weeks passed. Loral sat at a great oak table in the library of Tanaan, reading over the memoirs of Maelin Starpyre. Fennin Ro, elder god of Fire, had been killed. While the rush of victory was hard to suppress, Loral could not help but feel a coming darkness. He remembered the speakings of Ciric, his Erudite mentor, about balance and the complementary relationships of the gods. How could the balance of Norrath be sound when such a great force had been slain? As if in reply, Loral felt the shield leaning against his chair grow hot. The grating laughter of Xuzl hissed in the back of Loral's mind. Loral would return to Qeynos to speak with Ciric on these matters, but Loral had one more conversation to have first - a conversation with a demon.