‘The Gate is yours . . . good luck, guard it well . . .’ the wizard said, speaking in his mind.
Rag’nerack prepared himself, flexing his mighty arms. His wide, gaping nostrils sucked in a deep breath of air . . .
‘. . . and die well, Rag’nerack.’
Oh the scent! So familiar to him. The aroma of battle . . .
He raised M’jllner high.
The foul stench of infected, rotting flesh. He both despised and loved it. A mere whiff of the undead was enough to send him into a frenzy . . .
The little wizards all left . . . good. Now the slaughter belonged to the brothers.
The Stone Sense flowed through him. Born of his thundering heart, it flooded his blood-veins with the power of steel and earth. It surged through his arms; thick, corded muscles tough as stone. It filled his meaty fist, then traveled up the six foot column of steel, igniting M’jllner in a blaze of white light.
He shifted his massive girth toward the Rift, swinging the glowing block of crystal downward as he did so.
A dozen rot-skins were blown back; their bloated bodies erupting into bits and pieces of burning flesh.
Alongside him, his stone-brothers stood – a wall. A wall of giants.
In front of them, Hell’s Gate writhed in fury. Wailing with bloodlust, the dead poured out in a raging flood.
Rag’nerack raised his hammer to the Door, howling back at it.
Again and again his hammer fell – and where it landed, the undead were obliterated. With every passing arc of M’jllner a dozen fell, their bodies exploding on contact. But almost instantaneously, a dozen more walking corpses were there to take their place. Back and forth his hammer swept, sundering anything that got in its way.
Their charred remains covered him, still smoldering as they landed on his thick, leathery skin.
The rot-skins fell in innumerable amounts. His stone-brothers took nearly as much as he; their axes and hammers filled the spacious chamber with enough blazing silver-fire to nearly match M’jllner’s glow.
And oh how his stone-brothers roared . . . Hell’s Gate quaked in fear.
The Dark Lords sent greater foes; larger, smarter rot-skins, but they fell the same. Like all rot-skins, their minds were slow and weak – as were their bodies.
Then came the bitten. The hell-spawn of the Dark Lords. They were strong, fast, and often filled with the essence of death.
But none of that mattered.
The moment they left the Hell’s Gate they hit the wall. The only difference between the bitten and the rot-skins, was that they saw their end coming. The war-cries of his brothers turned their dead blood into ice. M’jllner turned their bodies into ash and dust.
The stone-brothers stood fast and held the Gate, even when injured. Some were bitten, several clawed. A few suffered even worse; broken bones, deep internal wounds. But the wall remained solid and strong. The pile of fallen bitten nearly clogged Hell’s Gate.
Then there was a pause . . .
His body was blackened with soot. His sweat turned to steam under the layer of hot ash. His chest heaved in and out from exhaustion.
Keeping a wary eye on Hell’s Gate, Rag’nerack turned to assess his brothers.
Stokimere was full of their blood; his body was covered in bites, many of which were quite deep. He leaned wearily on his axe for a moment, then toppled over. With a swift drop of his hammer, Brokheim was there to send him away. But Brokheim had the blood as well; bite marks marred his hairy chest and arms. His own blood spilled from the wounds, signifying penetration – infection. He would fight for a time longer, but then no more.
He looked at his brothers, for what would probably be the last time. Seven had the blood in them – at varying degrees, and one was dead. Of the ten giants who journeyed to the Sanctuary, only two of them remained whole – Rag’nerack and the crafty old warrior, Oldem. They all knew what this was. They were born with battle in their blood-veins, and had spilt much of it fighting against the Demon Horde. The tactics of the Dark Lords were well known to them. The Horde had paused, not out of fear, but because they awaited the birth of infection. They thought to turn their enemies into their allies . . .
Rag’nerack would give them none.
His infected brothers came to him . . . to be blessed with M’jllner.
Only two stone-brothers remained.
They were the last ones left in the chamber when the Dark Lords came . . .
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