Of Korbrak, and Desheng, and the Three Bargains

Korbrak and Desheng, War and Death, have ever been close; some traditions hold that they are brother and sister. But as siblings will, they have sometimes been rivals. It is said that in ancient days Korbrak met Desheng among the Fountains of Gethol that are no more, there to make a bargain, the Pact of Sárkagan, that the souls of the bravest and most bloodthirsty dead would come to His halls in Runázak that were even then being hewn from living stone, instead of to Her Twilight Realm of Nehenu Vasate. But when the time came, the Gray Mother was reluctant to surrender Her charges, for she knew to what use Korbrak would put them, and it might be that one dedicated to war in one life would find another path in the next. And those so chosen by Korbrak would know nothing but battle until after the Last Days.

Thus cheated, Korbrak rode alone and enraged into the Twilight Kingdom, striking down the old guardians of the Gates of Mist and venturing within, taking as his booty twelve unique souls upon which Desheng had long watched and ever would.

Chastensed, Desheng sought to fulfill the bargain, but Symbrac came before Her and argued that as the soul is a flame within a chalice, itself within the vestibule of the body, so He too had some small claim over Her charges. And for reasons of His own, Symbrac sought to secure His own bargain, in which the souls of those dedicated to Korbak would go to Sárkagan, but those others who followed in life some other God would go still to Nehenu Vasate, no matter their valor in life.

And hearing of this second bargain, Korbrak was filled with wrath, and came before Symbrac intending to smite Him and even to seize the Throne of Fire by right of murder. But the Old Dragon had known the Warlord when He had risen to His divinity, and foresaw this, and when Korbrak came to the Forges of the Velkánd with bared steel and fury Symbrac held in his two hands a mighty axe, Valhashár, the ashen blade of red legend, newly-forged in the Inextinguishable Furnace from the last of the ingots gifted long before by Zerem. And so Korbrak hesitated, some say for the first and last time.

Then Symbrac spoke, of those things He had told to Desheng and others besides, but Korbrak was angered still, and this also the Father of Fire foresaw. So Symbrac offered to Korbrak a third bargain, with the axe Valhashár in return for his accession to the agreement he had made with the Gray Lady. To this bargain Korbrak agreed, and thus the dooms of many were set. So it was that Korbrak sought ever after to increase the number of his followers among those who fight and slay, where before he cared only for a few dedicated mortals, the Black Wayfarers. It was not long before he knew trust once more with Desheng, for their domains are so akin that they cannot long be remote in purpose. But even so, She set a mightier guard upon the Gates of Mist. And always after did Korbrak hold faithless the Father of Fire.

Now in Nehenu Vasate time has a different meaning than in the mortal sphere, and there the uttermost essences of mortal men gather before their births and after their deaths, whence they might in time return to the mortal world. So were the twelve souls captured by Korbrak the greatest warriors and marshals to stride all the lands of Ytherra, and all had trod the path of the Black Cavalryman in lives past, though not in all. But clad in armor black and dreadful, they became after a brief time His Twelve Captains, the generals of the Black Legions whose ranks are ever swelled by the spirits of the faithful dead, and who will ride upon the plains of the mortal world again one day.

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