Sword of Caledor

PROLOGUE

Morathi, queen of the elves of Naggaroth, watched the tidal wave of flesh thunder towards her. Hundreds of thousands of feral warriors emerged out of the grim, grey wasteland, mounted on horses, drawn on chariots, carried by monsters, borne by their own booted feet. Enormous plumes of contaminated dust rose in their wake. Savage, sinister chants boomed out, audible even over the thunder of hooves and the turning of iron-bound wheels.

The onrushing horde bore the marks of Chaos on their skin: the stigmata of mutation, the tattooed runes of evil magic. The banners of the Dark Gods fluttered in the chill wind that blew out from the uttermost north.

Morathi moistened her lips with her tongue. Her spell of far-seeing allowed her to make out the smallest details if she focussed on them: the rings that pierced warped flesh, the blood that caked the spikes of black armour, the unholy fanaticism that glittered in every eye.

How many times had she seen their like before, she wondered? How often had she encountered the followers of the Dark Gods since that first time more than six thousand years before? Her own legion trembled. They feared for their lives and rightly so. Compared to these deadly newcomers they were a flock of lambs in the path of a pack of wolves.

She strode to the front of her force and stood beneath her unfurled banner. She raised one delicate and lovely fist in the air. Her musicians struck up. Trumpets sounded. Braziers were lit. Narcotic incense drifted on the wind.

Her followers slowly deployed in the cold desert, a carnival procession in the midst of a slag-strewn wasteland. There were thousands of them, selected for their beauty and their erotic skills and their ability to endure the caresses of even the most repellent with a smile. Hers was not an army that could conquer anyone in battle nor was it expected to. Her son had legions of warriors who could kill and slaughter. This army would triumph in another way.

It was just as well she was not expecting these pampered pets to fight, she thought. Most of these beautiful girls and boys could not hold a blade properly. Their talents ran in other directions, just as hers did. The difference between her and them was that she could do battle if she needed to and would if the necessity arose.

She had fought beside Aenarion in the days of her youth, killing daemons, slaughtering the enemies of her people with wild abandon. She had cast spells and brewed poisons and worked out battle strategies for his armies. She had used her gift of visions to grant the elves victories innumerable.

The so-called high elves had forgotten that now, preferring to cast her as the villain in the simple-minded morality plays they so enjoyed since her son had sundered the realm. They had no idea what it had cost to win those battles back when all thought the world was ending, or the price she had paid for victory.

Still, she felt no need to crow about those millennia-gone triumphs. She preferred to live in the moment. All across the world, she was known, feared and desired. Her reach was long, longer even than her son’s and quite as strong in its way.

Malekith would learn to appreciate her again. He always did. At the moment, he was going through one of his independent phases, but he would learn soon enough that his followers were unreliable. At the end of the day, they were elven nobles and one of the things that made them so was the secret belief that they owed