He had seen the formation of the Nexus. From the high walls of Chill he saw the ever-shifting glow over the horizon to the south, despite the vast distance, and the far-off light that shone upwards to the heavens. He felt the power surge through his veins. He knew the coming war could yet tear the world apart just as surely as the Nexus itself. And yet, until now, he had remained steadfast – the Northern Alliance must defend Chill until the end. They could not leave the city, they could not involve themselves in the war for the Rift. To do so would leave vulnerable another ancient power, one that he had so long protected – one that the Abyssal Dwarfs had besieged the city to gain.
But that had all changed when his mind had connected across the ether to the great consciousness of a Trident King. The ancient being had shown Talannar just what terror now faced the world, and Talannar realised he had delayed when he should have acted. He had allowed the Abyssal Dwarfs to leave the Winterlands unopposed, and even now they surely marched to the Halpi Mountains in support of their dark kin.
Embittered with regret, he gave the command. While Talannar remained behind with a small garrison, the rest of his beleaguered forces armed themselves and marched from the city, summoning their allies as they went. The further south they marched, the more their ranks swelled, as half-elves marched with human and dwarf, packs of white-pelted wolves loped alongside the column, and snow trolls and frost giants lumbered down from the mountains. The Northern Alliance swept from the Winterlands like an avalanche.
Hidden among the rocky slopes of the mountains, the Abyssal Dwarfs’ twisted gargoyles watched Talannar’s army and, each night, more flew back to the Halpi Mountains to report on their whereabouts. Dravak Dalken greeted each detail with callous indifference, as he sought the answers to controlling the furies of the Nexus. Yet other commanders gathered in the holds took note of the warnings and – keen to exact revenge for being pushed from the Winterlands – mounted their defences to meet the Northern Alliance threat head on. And this time they wouldn’t lose.
As the Northern Alliance marched through the Sorrows to the north east of the Halpi Mountains they came upon increasing numbers of Free Dwarfs. Dwarf Clansmen greeted old friends with hearty smiles and claps on the back, despite the terrible reason for their reunion. Emboldened by the arrival of the Northern Alliance, the Free Dwarf lords reluctantly explained their plans to retake the Halpi Mountains and reclaim the holds that had been disgraced by their Abyssal kin. It seemed the often tenuous allies shared a common purpose
Keen to strike, Talannar’s finest agreed they would march ahead to tackle the threat of the Nexus, while the Free Dwarfs waited for more reinforcements from across the High Sea of Bari. The dwarfs were expecting Golloch’s finest to bolster their war effort and knew that strength of numbers would help turn the tide when it came to battling in the rocky valleys and grand halls of their forebears.
When the Northern Alliance eventually arrived into the heart of the Halpi Mountains they were greeted by a terrible sight. The overmasters had rallied an almighty force of Ratkin slaves, blacksouls, decimators and immortal guard. The ground shook with the thundering steps of monstrous hellfanes, while the sky turned black with flocks of wheeling and screeching gargoyles. Thegns braced themselves and sounded their horns. The battle had begun.
As the Northern Alliance were the first to arrive in the region north of the Nexus, they suffered the greatest casualties of the noble armies. Each day the beleaguered forces looked over the mountains expecting to see the Free Dwarfs marching to help them. But no help came. The fighting was bloody and torturous, with numerous losses on both sides. In their eagerness to stop the Northern Alliance progressing further into the mountain, the Abyssal Dwarfs spilled forth from the ancient holds and sent thousands of Ratkin and orcs to die under the Northern Alliance’s assault.
Eventually help came from an unlikely source: the Basileans. Compared to the gleaming armour of the Hegemony, the mud-splattered fur of the Northern Alliance made them look like animals – and many of the Basileans struggled to hide their distaste at having to help their unusual allies. Yet the command had come from the highest halls of the Hegemony itself. There were whispers that the Shining Ones themselves had intervened, instructing the Hegemon that the Rift must be closed. Of course, who had warned the Shining Ones is a different matter entirely and only Talannar himself knows the answer to that question.
Fighting alongside the Northern Alliance, the Basileans began to turn the tide – pushing the Abyssal Dwarfs back into the mountains and getting ever closer to the Nexus itself. After what seemed like an age of endless combat, the Basileans and Northern Alliance were joined by the elven companies. Although the elves had felt the eruption of the Nexus most keenly, they had been slow to act. In their haughty arrogance, some on the elven council had suggested the Nexus should be left to rage. None but the elves could handle its power, so others would inevitably be wiped out by its arcane energy. They chuckled at the thought of men trying to control it, while the Abyssal Dwarfs were simply too blinded by greed to understand its true power. Meanwhile the dwarfs cared only about reclaiming their former glory.
But as the Nexus warped time and reality around the centre of the rift, the energies began to travel through the Shadow Paths, once used so frequently by the elves to travel and length and breadth of Pannithor. Terrifying nightmares began to plague the elves of Elvenholme, as ethereal beings saw the slipping of the planes as a glorious opportunity to try and push back into the mortal realm. Panic spread throughout the elves and it was decided to send a great host to aid the efforts of the Basilean and Northern Alliance. However, rather than risk travelling the ways, which had become fraught with danger since the opening of the Nexus, the elves set sail across the great Infant Sea. The legendary Madriga, Warden of the High Seas, sailed at the head of the fleet, joined by an upstart mage called Nimue Waydancer, who appeared to have a powerful connection to the rift.
By the time the elves pushed through the west of the Halpi region, the Northern Alliance and Basileans had reached Crag Hudd – the centre of the Nexus and the hole where Dravak Dalken had taken refuge. While the battle raged, a small contingent of elven mages, Basilean wizards, dwarf stone priests and ice-queens entered the holds… determined to close the rift, no matter the costs. If the elves were surprised to find members of the Sylvan Kin already fighting in the holds under Crag Hudd, they hid it well, and used the reinforcements to push further underground.
Eventually the alliance arrived at the heart of the Nexus and was greeted by the furious, desperate stare of Dravak Dalken, the ironcaster that had unleashed the rift in his quest for immortality. As Infernok roared into life and charged at the intruders, the rangers of the Sylvan Kin held back the tide of Ratkin and immortal guard that aimed to project Dravak.
In between nervous glances, Dravak quickly surveyed the latest batch of parchments and scrolls that had been brought to him by fawning Ratkin. He cursed violently as many referred to a pair of gauntlets that were capable of harnessing the raw energy of the Nexus. Despite his best efforts, his search for the gauntlets had proved fruitless, and his own attempts to control the power spewing forth had been life-threatening at best. In his anger he temporarily lost control of Infernok and felt the recoil of a blade striking the monster’s torso. He concentrated once more and swatted away the useless elf that was bothering his infernal creation. With a growl of frustration he realised his dreams of controlling the Nexus would have to wait. The war was lost. At least for him.
Summoning Infernok to his side, Dravak sent hordes of Ratkin to their doom as he scuttled back into the tunnels of Crag Hudd, Infernok stomping beside him. As he disappeared into the gloom, he gave one last look at the Nexus and cursed the weaklings that had foiled his plot. Clearly other Abyssal Dwarfs hiding in Zarak – fearful of his mastery of the eldritch arts – must have acted against him… and now they would pay for their insolence. Infernok chuckled darkly.