Chapter One of the Tower of Dreams

Last Stand of the Brotherhood of Olympus

Chapter One

January 13, 1469

Mohrungen, Prussia

 

The snow covered fields north of Mohrungen were muddied, cluttered with the carnage of battle, cloven shields, broken swords, spears, and hundreds of arrows rising up out of the slush making the field a pincushion.  Clusters of charred, dismembered, or broken bodies were scattered across the snow, illustrating exactly how the battle unfolded.  Near each of these groupings of grisly remains were small, steaming pools of blood in the vales and crannies of the plain.  The cold winds blew ice particles off the drifting snow and over the battlefield laying a thin, powdery white blanket over the death and destruction.  The farmland was small, perhaps five acres ringed by gnarled forests, with a single rutted roadway cutting it in half from the north to south.

The fight that had been waged there was brutal and devastating for the three forces involved.  None escaped without heavy casualties.  But that was not what caught the eyes of Hochmeister Heinrich Reuss von Plauen, the Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights, and his personal retinue of twenty knights and more than twice as many retainers, as they emerged from the dense forest on the south road.

“There it is, Hochmeister!” Gregor von Rautenberg exclaimed.  He was a nobleman of Marienburg, blonde ringlets framed his pale face under the mail coif adorning his head. He was the Kanzler, or Chancellor of the Grandmaster, and it was his duty to care for the official keys and seals as well as being the recording clerk of the chapter. “The tower is real!”

“We can all see it Gregor,” the Hochmeister stated in an attempt to calm the excitable Kanzler.  The breath of the knights, men, and horses steamed into the chilled air.

Before the assembled knights of the order, in the middle of this small farmland stood a massive black obelisk, it was a tower that stood out of place and time.  It was nearly two hundred feet across at the base.  There were no visible doors, windows, or any defensive arrow slits.  But, what awed the brethren was its height.  It had no end.  The top of the tower disappeared in the heavy gray clouds that rolled hundreds of feet above the Prussian wilderness.  The stone of the tower was a shiny, nearly reflective black rock.

“It is constructed of obsidian,” Berchtold von Wensing stated after eyeing the tower top to bottom. He was a slender old man, disguised by the bulk of his decorative blackened plate armor, a large white Teutonic cross woven into a blue pentacle hung on a thick chain around his neck, and like all Teutonic knights he wore a thick white, woolen cloak with a black Teutonic cross on the left shoulder.  The Teutonic cross looked like four capital “T” letters joining together in a cross on their bases.  He had seen too many winters, but his advanced age was pivotal in his position within the order. He was the Einsichtmeister, or knowledge master, it was his business to know everything about everything.  His gear upon the flanks of his steed was the trappings of a scholar, not a fighter.  Books, scroll cylinders, and archaic mechanical devices were packed tightly in his belongings.  “Obsidian is an extremely rare volcanic rock, in Europe it can only be found in the Carpathians, to build a tower of this size out of such a stone would be nigh impossible.”

“Does obsidian have any properties, Valten?” the Hochmeister queried as his sinewy, white monk horse began to act skittish.  That was a highly unusual behavior for von Plauen’s large battle trained steed.

“It would provide a measure of protection from magic, both spiritual and Eldritch my Lord,” Valten von Holdau, the Zaubermeister, or magic master explained.  He was a tall man of dark complexion, he wore no helmet or mail coif like the other knights instead he wore a simple polished silver skull cap that fit tightly to his head. He had a dark, purplish hued mail shirt under his white cape.  He possessed the same medallion on a chain that von Wensing did, except his seemed to glow with a faint blue light in the woven pentacle.  He possessed no sword on his horse, an equal number of books and scrolls, some rare herbs and other peculiar delicacies in darkened containers, and he favored a long, runic-carved wooden staff with polished silver metal caps on both ends. “And it may provide a focus point to use magic from within it.  Do you concur Wilhelm?”

“Aye,” Wilhelm von Essen replied.  He was a pale, almost sickly man, gaunt in features, thin straggly hair comprised his beard, and he was plagued by a chronic cough.  He wore the medallion of his colleagues over a mail coat rumored to be magical silver.  His head was hidden under a tall black helmet that had the face of a laughing demonic child adorning crown.  He was the most feared knight of the order.  The Teutonic Knights were a religious military order of Germanic knights formed in 1190 for the Crusades.  They served honorably with the brethren of the larger Templar and Hospitaller orders during the occupation of the Holy lands.  They were devout and pious men who served as clergy and as soldiers for God.  Von Essen was the Übersinnlichmeister, the master of the supernatural, and was known to commune with heathen gods, parley with daemons, was rumored to possess the skill of mind reading, and could move objects with a thought.  He surely would have been excommunicated and executed long ago by order of the Pope himself if not for the service he had provided time and again, in defense against many dark forces.  He looked intently upon the black obelisk.  “It is indeed the Tower of Dreams, Hochmeister.  It has haunted my dreams, and I sense the presence of Addraemyr the Keeper within.  It is more than a mere coincidence that it appears now before us on the eve what will be our end.”

The steely eyes of the Hochmeister met the fanatical gaze of von Essen, and he knew the man spoke earnestly.

“So it is as it told to us?” questioned Leopold von Schmidt as he moved his black gelding to the front near the Hochmeister.  Von Schmidt was a fiery red haired man with a full beard loosely braided in four roughly even tails below his chin.  He wore a black helmet shaped to resemble a wolf, the medallion around his neck, a black coat of mail, the white cloak of the order, and had unsheathed his polished great sword in his right hand.  He was the Taktikmeister, or master of strategy for the order.  “The Brotherhood of Olympus dies today, unless we gain entry into that mythic tower?”

“It has been foretold as such, Leopold,” von Essen turned to his brother.  “The order to decommission the Brotherhood is following us even know from Rome.  Ever since peace has come to the lands from the powers we have long fought, the Pope has no purpose for those of us who travel into the dark places to keep the world safe from what hides within the darkness.”

“Tis true,” von Wensing stated, his gray beard frosting from his rapidly cooling breath.  “There is no love lost between the Holiest of Holies and our little band here.  We served a purpose prior to the Covenant of Reason being signed by the otherworldlies and the representative of his Holiness, Paul the second.  And in the months since, no otherworldlies have as much as stepped foot, or batted an eyelash at mankind.  His Holiness has obliged the College of Cardinals and signed our death writ.  The Teutonic order will continue, diminished of course, but the Brotherhood of Olympus, formed from the Livonian Order of the Sword long ago, shall perish.”

“Is this true, Hochmeister?” questioned von Essen as he turned his brown monk horse towards Reuss von Plauen.

“Aye,” the stern Hochmeister replied.  “His Holiness, has decreed our holdings forfeit.  I would surmise that I may get a reprieve as the Hochmeister to the Teutonic order if I sought it, but you all, my brothers, shall not be spared the sword.”

“Then I say we lay siege the Tower, and if God be willing, live to see another day,” announced Steffan von Dienheim as he positioned his gray-speckled, white gelding near the other masters of the order.  He was a massive man, burly, and robust.  His wild black hair waved in the breeze around his clearly dented great helm.  He was the strongest of all the men in all of Eastern Europe, and would go to great lengths to prove it before he joined the knighthood.  He possessed nearly every weapon used by the Teutonic knights, either on his horse or on the mules carrying his weaponry.  He often rode to battle with an overly large double headed battle axe.  Von Dienheim was the Waffenmeister, or master of weapons, of the order.  He was a battled hardened warrior with few peers, and no equals.

“Hochmeister, there has to be another way?” the Kanzler queried from behind the other six knights.  “Look at the carnage before us.  The brethren of the order who preceded us here breathe no more.  I fear we shall do no better in any such assault on this dread tower.”

“Gregor,” Heinrich Reuss von Plauen turned on his mount to face the Kanzler.  The Hochmeister was a Thuringian nobleman and the nephew of the former Grandmaster who died in 1467.  He assumed control of the order without having been elected Grandmaster, for that was a formality he took no comfort in.  He was a war hero during the Thirteen Years’ War against Poland, who commanded the destruction of the Polish army in the Battle of Konitz.  Reuss von Plauen was a tall man, his long, brown, curly hair hung loose under the mail coif on his head.  His mail coat was covered by a ruched royal blue jacket gathered in a series of silver buttons down the center of his torso.  Like all of his master knights, he wore the cross and star medallion around his neck, and sported the thick white, woolen cape.  His beard was well manicured and his features fair.  He was a leader among leaders, and as such, it was up to him to make the difficult decisions.  “Have care to my instructions Kanzler, for the Teutonic order must survive this moment in time.”

“Yes, Hochmeister,” responded the Kanzler dutifully.

“Take ten of the knights and all of the men-at-arms,” continued the Hochmeister as he turned his steed to face the brother knights assembled to the rear.  “None must know of our folly here, all of you are bound to utmost secrecy on this matter.  Return forthwith to Mohrungen, Kanzler, and then you shall seek out my uncle’s mute son Ludwig from the monastery in Konigsberg.  He bears a likeness to me that neither the Poles, nor the Pope will discern.  Ludwig shall be but a puppet, dress him in my clothing, and you shall have to run the order in my absence Kanzler.  You have the keys and seals, make good on my plans to run the order as I have decreed in my writ.”

“Aye,” the Kanzler replied taking mental note of the instructions and accepting a folded parchment from the Hochmeister.

“Hochmeister,” von Schmidt began from his spot on the front line.  “There are three forces gathering to assault the tower once more.  A detachment of the Polish army to the forest on the right, a rabble of pagan heathens to the north, and an ungodly foe gathers on the left.”

“I believe they have hellhounds in their midst,” von Wensing added as he peered through a looking glass.  “And what appear to be minor demons.”

“Brother Knights,” the Hochmeister proclaimed as he rode his horse before the line of men.  “I require five volunteers to ride forward with the Masters of the Brotherhood of Olympus to secure that tower yonder.  Death is nearly certain.  Glory shall not be shared of this day, save for in the company of our Heavenly Father, for none shall ever know that a few good knights rode to battle on this Friday, the thirteen of January, in the year 1469 of our Lord.  I cannot command you to ride with us, nor can I condemn you if you choose otherwise.  The path ahead for the Kanzler will be wrought with peril, and he will require all of you to be at his ready.”

The Hochmeister turned his horse, drew his sword from its scabbard and raised it above him as he rode in front of his men one final time.

“What say you good brothers,” Reuss von Plauen shouted as he started his horse into a canter.  “Who shall ride with his Hochmeister, death awaits us my lads, onward to battle, onward to glory!”

The brother knights erupted in a battle cry raising their swords and lances.  Five brave souls spurred their horses forward to join the masters, excitement and adrenaline coursed through their young bodies.

“Kanzler,” von Schmidt stated as he neared the young nobleman.  “Do not record the deeds of the day.  Should we be victorious, you will know upon our return.  Look to the sky on the equinox to see any sign of our success.  The tower rises in the west that night.  No one must know of our duty here today.”

“Aye, Einsichtmeister,” the Kanzler replied.  “It shall be done as the Hochmeister decreed.

“Good lad,” von Schmidt continued as he turned his horse to join the others preparing to siege the tower.  “And Gregor, tell our families that we lived honorably, and died likewise in the service of our Lord.”

“Aye,” the Kanzler responded with a tear forming in his eye.

The Hochmeister rode out before the brother knights and the masters of the order.

“Leopold,” Reuss von Plauen called out as his horse began to pick up speed, he was quickly followed by the five excited brother knights.  “A plan might be good.”

“We must make for the base of the tower, Hochmeister,” von Schmidt answered quickly.  “Surely there must be an entrance, and if not then we secure the base from the others.”

“That’s enough for me,” von Dienheim exclaimed as he spurred his horse to join the Hochmeister and raised his massive axe above him.

“Shall we,” von Essen asked with a forward motion of his hand.  Von Holdau and von Wensing acknowledged the motion and together they spurred their horses to join the charge.

From his vantage point at the edge of the forest, Gregor von Rautenberg, watched the snow being kicked up by the charging horses fade into the steaming path they had charged toward the tower.  He also noticed that the forces gathered on the opposing four sides, began to surge towards the tower as well.

“God be with you my brothers,” von Rautenberg said as he turned his horse back to the road south.  “Brother Knights, men-at-arms, we have our orders, back to Mohrungen.”

The base of the monolithic tower was quickly gained by the charging knights.  The pulled their horses to a halt before its massive black stone wall.

“Brothers, ride the perimeter of the tower, see if there are any doors or other possible ways of entrance,” the Hochmeister commanded as he turned to look back to the south to see if the Kanzler had departed.

The knights circled the gigantic base of the tower once looking at the gleaming black stone of the structure, before returning back to the Hochmeister.

“I saw nothing, my lord,” stated the first brother knight to return to Reuss von Plauen.

“There was nothing that was any different than what is here before us, Hochmeister,” the elderly von Wensing added as he pulled his horse to a stop.  “I fear there is nothing physical about the tower that will let us gain entry.”

“Valten, Wilhelm,” barked the Hochmeister as he dismounted from his steed.  “I need you both to find us a way in there.”

Both men quickly dismounted and pulled supplies from their horse’s baggage and sprinted to the base of the tower.

“What do you think Wilhelm?” von Holdau queried as he held an oddly shaped device that had an internal gear mechanism that purred as he raised it by the obsidian of the tower.

“I think we better hurry Valten,” von Essen replied as he looked back over his shoulder.  “Our foes are nearly upon us.”

“Brothers,” shouted von Schmidt as he turned his horse to the west and the onrushing demonic horde.  “To arms, defend the perimeter in a tight formation!”

The knights still on horseback, along with the strategy master and the weapons master began to ride in a swift circle of sinewy horse and slashing blades.  If done correctly it makes a nearly unbreakable moving wall that can defend a center point from an advancing foe.  To do it correctly, requires more than seven riders.

The Polish army attacked from the East, at nearly the same moment the demonic horde crashed into the circling riders on the West.

“Valten, Wilhelm,” the Hochmeister shouted as he positioned himself in front of the two other men.  “I need you to hurry up!”

“Hochmeister,” von Wensing called out as he dismounted his horse roughly.  His aged body was not meant to be that agile, and he came up sorely limping.  “I am better served being here trying to figure out our way in then on the field of battle.”

The Hochmeister moved his sword into his left hand and clasped his right hand to the inside of von Wensing’s right elbow, who returned the hand clasp.

“Aye, my friend,” the Hochmeister agreed as he headed towards the circling knights.

At that moment, the tactic employed to delay the attacks on both sides failed, and the horses began to fall to the sharp fangs and claws of the monstrous hellhounds.  The unhorsed knights struggled against the mounting foes, their swords sung a song of bloody carnage honed by years of battle, and two failed to regain their footing and were rendered apart by the swarming demonic horde.  The scaly reddish bodies of the demons spewed ichor from the savage cuts of the knight’s swords.  The black hellhounds stood half as tall as the knights, their bodies thick and rangy, and nearly devoid of fur save the wild tuft along the back of the neck.  They had a ridge of skeletal protrusions sticking out of their spines that resembled spikes, a barbed tail that flailed back and forth that could be fatal to a man if he were hit by it, and a most unnatural head.  The hellhound head looked surprisingly human.  Except for the fact they were too big to be human and slightly canine in shape, their gaping mouths filled with long razor sharp fangs, and gazing at their eyes was sure to cause madness.  They cackled and howled as they moved about the knights.  The demons were just as terrifying, their bodies seemed insect-like in the way they bent and moved.  They had large heads sported equally large mouths filled with row upon row of shark-like teeth.  Their fingers ended in long hooked claws and they took glee in ripping the horseflesh off the fallen horses.  The three knights standing before the demons held their ground and turned them back twice.

To the opposite side, the Poles had dismounted von Schmidt, who stood alone.  A moment before, the enraged von Dienheim rode out in a full charge into the ranks and his horse fell nearly thirty yards out from were his brother now stood, sword raised, and prepared for the end.

The Poles advanced on von Schmidt with spears.  He hacked at their ends as they pressed forward.  From the tower, the Hochmeister fell upon the Poles in a blaze of slashing steel, shattering the spears, severing arms, gorging chests, and cleaving heads of the soldiers with little regard for his own safety.  Von Schmidt took advantage of the attack and joined the Hochmeister in his frenzy.  The lightly armored Poles fell back in their dismay, and broke into a run back towards the forest.

The demon horde slashed forward once again, a third knight fell to them and screamed as they tore him into shreds.  Both von Schmidt and the Hochmeister turned and raced to aid their brothers in defending against the demons and hellhounds.

“I don’t understand,” von Wensing stated as he leaned against the cool obsidian of the tower.  “These beasts should not be here, the Covenant of Reason forbids such incursions by otherworldlies.”

“The tower itself is otherworldly, Berchtold,” von Essen stated as he felt the side of the stone and appeared to be deep in thought.  “If I can only contact Addraemyr, perhaps appeal to him, he might let us in.”

The demonic horde took down another of the knights, as the Hochmeister and von Schmidt rallied to the surviving knight’s aid.  The three brothers pushed the horde back once again.

“Wilhelm, Berchtold, stand clear,” Valten stated as he took his arcane staff and touched it against the obsidian.  The hair on their bodies stood up as if electrified.  A blinding flash leapt of the staff, as thick coursing blue lightning arced off the tower from the dark clouds circling the top and grounded itself into the metal cap of the staff.

“Valten, Wilhelm,” the Hochmeister hollered behind them, the last of the brother knights had fallen and the two masters were in dire need of support.  “Some help over here!”

“Contact Addraemyr,” Valten stated to Wilhelm as he turned and ran towards the fighting forms of von Schmidt and the Hochmeister.  Once again a flash of lightning raged off the end of the staff, this time its target was the demonic horde.  Charred demon flesh and hellhound hide smoldered around the three men.  The demons fell back and regrouped, a dark robed figure stepped forward from within their ranks.

“They have a wizard,” von Schmidt stated as he turned and looked at their own master of magic.

“I see that, Leopold,” Valten replied coldly.

A pink gurgling aura radiated around the demonic wizard, it slowly expanded until a bolt of crimson energy shot out towards Valten.  He quickly responded with the staff, blue lightning sparked into the surging energy bolt and the two competing energy beams flashed and sparked against each other halfway between the two magic users.  The demon horde rushed forward one more time.  Von Schmidt and the Hochmeister braced themselves to defend Valten.

“I hate magic,” bellowed the rambling form of von Dienheim from behind them, his massive axe raised, he passed them by and crashed into the advancing demon horde.  Parts of demons and hellhounds flew from the carnage that was the master of weapons.

“I thought he was dead?” question the Hochmeister.

“Should have known it would take more than a few hundred Poles to kill him,” van Schmidt replied with a grin.  Both men advanced to join von Dienheim in battle with the demons.  Overhead the clash of magic continued, but the blue lightning was pushing its way closer and closer to the black robed wizard.

A second black robed figure appeared from the demonic host and a gurgling purple mist began to form around it.  At that moment the lightning struck the first demon wizard and blew it apart into fragments of cindered flesh.  The demons and hellhounds retreated with the loss of their wizard under the duress caused by the three knights slashing at them from the front.  The second wizard continued casting its spell.

“I have contacted the Keeper,” shouted Wilhelm from beside the monolith.  “He knows we are here and seeking entrance to the tower.”

The Hochmeister turned and looked towards the tower.  He smiled broadly, as if he always had all the confidence in the world that they would succeed.

Forgotten during the battle at the base of the Tower of Dreams, were the pagan heathen forces along the northern edge of the clearing.  They had stayed clear as the larger forces clashed before them.  They were poorly equipped, mostly farmers, and a few huntsmen with bows.  It was a particular huntsman from the Lithuanian lowlands who unleashed an arrow that found its mark, right below the medallion on the chest of the Hochmeister.

The thud of the arrow made the five brothers stand and stare at their leader.  They had followed Heinrich Reuss von Plauen since the early 1440s when he took over the arcane order of the Brotherhood of Olympus.  He was always right, and always willing to lead them wherever they needed to go, against whatever odds the faced, and they always prevailed.

Disbelief was in the Hochmeister’s eyes, blood began to trickle from his mouth.  How had his armor failed him?  What fate would allow a simple arrow to pierce his armor that had repelled so many attacks through all those years?

Leopold von Schmidt rushed to his leader and grabbed him as he stumbled and nearly fell.

“Bring him back here,” von Wensing called out. “Put him against the tower.”

Von Essen broke his connection with Addraemyr the Keeper inside and turned to assist the Hochmeister.  The second demonic wizard had completed his spell.  The purple mist blew rapidly towards the gathered Poles along the forest, circled the tower to flood across the heathen war party to the north, and it frothed and boiled amongst the demons and hellhounds around the wizard.  On all three fronts the affected creatures began to howl and wail.  Their eyes opened wide with madness, their mouths foaming with purple spittle.

Leopold sat the mortally wounded Hochmeister down with his back against the cool obsidian of the tower.  He looked into the eyes of Wilhelm, who shook his head.

“It is a fatal wound,” von Essen stated with tears in his eyes.

“Hochmeister,” von Wensing stated as he knelt near their leader.  “It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve under your leadership.”

“Berchtold,” responded the Hochmeister as he placed his left hand upon his shoulder.  “The Code, do you have a copy of it?  Of course you do.  May I have it?”

“Yes, my lord,” von Wensing replied as he fumbled for a parchment in a belt pouch that he quickly handed to the Hochmeister.  The five knights gathered around the Hochmeister.

“My brothers,” Reuss von Plauen began as he wiped the trickle of blood from his lips.  “I know not where we go from here.  I do not think this is the end, but a new beginning, a new chapter in our tale.  Told by minstrels who reveal not their sources.  I know not if we have achieved victory this day.  But I will forever know that I was honored to call each and everyone of you my brother.”

In turn each of the masters of the Brotherhood knelt and kissed the forehead of the Hochmeister.

“My brothers,” the ever observant von Schmidt announced as they turned away from the tower and the wounded Hochmeister.  “The spell their wizard cast seems to be a rage spell, we are about to be set upon on all sides.”

The five of them turned and placed their right hand in the middle of their impromptu circle, one by one they held their hands on top of each others.

“This is truly the end then?” von Schmidt questioned as they broke their circle.

“As it would seem,” von Essen replied as it he looked down at the ground grimly.  A dark shadow overcame him as electricity surged from his body.

“So be it,” von Dienheim said as he ran his large hand along the blade of his massive axe, and turned to run towards the maddened demonic horde.  “To the death!”

“Come on Berchtold,” von Schmidt added as he grasped the elderly man’s shoulder.  “I will not let you fall, as long as I draw breath.”

In the distance the massive von Dienheim hacked apart the enraged demons and hellhounds with machine like precision.  Valten channeled up the power of the mighty Staff of Orkan one last time and split the tide of the demons into a blackened pile of cooked flesh.  Wilhelm moved into the Poles, his feet were not on the ground, as he hovered and advanced into them.  Before him an unseen force crushed the maddened militia as he floated farther into their midst.  Leopold held the line against the advancing heathen war party, hacking and parrying their attacks, and knocking arrows down with his sword.  Berchtold stood beside him, his aged body resisting its breaking point and fighting beyond what he should have been capable of.

Two new demon wizards joined the other black robbed spell caster.  Together, the three of them began to cast a spell.  Valten turned the staff upon them.  Their magic clashed high above the battlefield as sparks of mana showered down upon the snow covered fields.

Berchtold and Leopold heard a noise at the base of the tower.  Both men turned to see that the Hochmeister was not there anymore.  What appeared to be a passageway quickly closed in the wall of the tower.  The distraction was enough to disrupt the skill of Leopold.  The heathen huntsmen had released a new volley of arrows, dodging and diving Leopold could not reach them all with his sword, one missile headed straight for Berchtold.  Leopold moved in front of it.  He felt the pain of the arrow deep in his chest, followed by an unusual numbness.  He looked into Berchtold’s eyes, and the old man had begun to cry.  Another arrow pierced Leopold’s back with a sickening thud.  Leopold looked at Berchtold again, and smiled.  He gave him a wink and turned towards the heathens again with his sword arm swinging.  Berchtold joined him in the battle once more.  Two more arrows found their mark in Leopold’s torso, as he slumped to the ground.  He looked up at Berchtold, he too had been hit by arrows.  Two bolts protruded from his body, one from his shoulder, another from his abdomen.  The elderly man fell to his knees, his sword arm ruined by the arrow in his shoulder.  Leopold moved before him.

“While I still draw breath, my brother,” von Schmidt gasped as he rose up to defend the knowledge master.

The maddened heathens attacked with unnatural frenzy, cleaving into the armor of Leopold with scythes and axes, overcome with blood loss, Leopold looked back and saw Berchtold on his knees, his lifeless eyes stared forward, ever forward, a third arrow sticking from his heart.  His brother was no more.  One of the farmers advanced upon the slumped and severely bleeding Leopold, took his bloodied scythe and with a mighty blow reaped the head of the knight from his body.

Valten von Holdau had long ago mastered the use of the Staff of Orkan, and he was without peer in the practice of magic in all of Europe.  His three foes before him were not from Europe, nor were they from anywhere good or natural.  These unholy magi were spawned from the abyss, in single numbers Valten would not fail, but out numbered three to one, Valten would have to be at his best to survive their magic.  The three abyssal magi formed into a triangle and brought their oozing essences together in a mixture of purple, green, and yellow energy.  Valten struck first before their spell had time to mature.  The lightning from the Staff of Orkan cracked through the sky causing a loud, banging thunder clap to roll over the plain.  The lightning surged into the tri-colored triangle and did the impossible.  It froze in place, like a glowing twisted icicle stuck into the triangle all the way back to the staff.  Valten could not move the staff, it was frozen in place.  The three magi continued their demonic chanting, holding their triangle trap in place.  A fourth black robbed figure emerged from the din of the battle, frothing orange energy rippled around it.  A sudden shot of orange hued light burst into Valten.  He felt numbness below his waist and a sudden shift of weight upon his arms holding the frozen Staff of Orkan.  He looked down to see that his body below his belt was gone.  Valten was holding his torso up by the frozen staff.  The three magi released their spell, and the Staff of Orkan fell to the ground.  With a sickening thud, Valten’s severed torso fell upon the staff.  Valten looked at the snow mashed into his face.  Snow was a curious thing.  Slowly the white crystals of frozen water turned red before him and he saw no more.

The massive form of Steffan von Dienheim cut a bloody swath of demonic ichor through the assembled frenzied horde of demons and hellhounds.  By now they surely would have broken if they were not magically enraged.  The weapon master was in his element, battle and bloodshed, and he asked no quarter and gave none to his enemies.  The surging mass of the demonic horde had completely surrounded him, and he used his axe to its full extent, swinging it in long graceful circles above his head, around his body, to the front, the side, and behind him.  Each swing cracked or sliced through another hapless demon or hellhound caught too close to him.  The carnage piled up around him, and as it did it stopped his movement forward.  Once stopped, his artistic skill with his axe diminished, he was getting pressed for room, and the pile of broken and cleaved bodies began to tumble into him.  As his motion slowed, the horde pressed down.  Claw and fang found flesh, tore away his armor piece by bloody piece.  Steffan was born of battle, and in battle he was home, he always knew that someday battle would take him, he just never imagined it would be this day.  Suddenly, the horde pulled back, a pathway opened towards the forest beyond.  From the forest a huge, overly muscled creature emerged carrying a long curved black bladed scimitar.  His long fiery red hair reminded Steffan of Leopold, how he hoped Leopold and Berchtold were okay.  The muscled form moved closer, swinging his scimitar in such a way to loosen up his muscles and intimidate his foe.  He wore armor crafted from bones wrought in black metal, and thick iron shod boots with a row of spikes along the toes.

“Steffan von Dienheim,” he announced as he paced closer.  The din of battle stopped around them.  “Long have I waited to meet you in combat.”

Steffan spat blood from his mouth in defiance.

“I shall grant you no mercy, human,” the barbaric demon stated as he neared.  “Before I kill you, I want you to know who I am.”

“I know who you are, filth,” von Dienheim retorted as he turned his slashed and bloody body to face the new challenge.  “Your cowardice and villainy precede you, Deshnak.”

“That’s Deshnak the Despoiler to you human!” shouted the barbarian as he lunged forward with a slash of his scimitar.  The blade was blocked by the sudden movement of von Dienheim who countered with the haft of his axe.

Steffan climbed over the bodies of the fallen demons and hellhounds turning to face the form of Deshnak as he spun back around from his first attack.  The remaining demons formed a circular wall around the two large combatants.  Deshnak advanced once again, his scimitar held tightly with both hands and raised into a ready position.  With a growl he swung as he passed von Dienheim.  Steffan countered with a backward swing of his axe, spinning it upward into the boney armor of Deshnak’s chest that hit on the flat side of the axe shattering the layers of bone into ivory splinters.

The bigger barbarian turned and wildly swung his scimitar in a crude figure eight before crashing the blade into the thick armor still resting on von Dienheim’s left shoulder.  Pain radiated down Steffan’s arm, he shifted his axe fully to his right hand and swung it with torrential rage, first downward nearly striking Deshnak in his quickly retreating legs, then back upwards clipping across the shattered armor on his chest and gouging a jagged cut across the right side of his face from his jaw to his forehead.  Bloody ichor spurted from the open wound in his chest and upon his face.

With a wild scream Deshnak closed in on von Dienheim before he could recover from his swing.  He clasped him in a monstrous hug, grinding his broken armor into the open wounds of von Dienheim.  The knight’s arms were trapped beneath the arms of the demonic barbarian, and they struggled for minutes in this way, both warriors flexing their muscles beyond human measure.  Their corded veins on their arms straining under the pressures applied.  The hellhounds began to howl and bay as they circled closer and closer towards the two combatants.  Their rabid jaws nipped ever so close to the legs of the knight as he began to lose his struggle with the larger barbarian.  With a sudden lunge the hellhounds tore into his legs.  Von Dienheim screamed out in pain, and loosened his struggle, giving Deshnak the opportunity he needed.  In a quick move, Deshnak let the knight fall towards the ground and the ravening maws of the hellhounds, and just as quickly he caught him when his neck passed the barbarian’s thick forearms.

“And now you die,” Deshnak stated coldly.  With a sudden flexing of his arms he twisted the neck of the struggling knight, snapping it with a loud crackle.  He tossed the still form of von Dienheim to the ground.  “Pathetic human.”

The hellhounds tore into the fallen knight.  Fortunately the broken neck severed his nerves so he could not feel as he was pulled apart by the hungry jaws of the slobbering hellhounds.  He hoped he had bought his brothers the gift of time, as he slowly lost focus and remembered no more.

Wilhelm von Essen hovered in the midst of the enraged Polish army.  Those close enough lashed out at him with spears and swords only to be beaten back by a powerful unseen force.  The dark energy surged through von Essen, crackling on the ground around him and melting the snow into muddied and blood tainted slush.  He had nearly crushed the entire force of the Poles who had gathered along the eastern edge of the clearing.  None of these soldiers, or poorly equipped men-at-arms could match the raw telekinetic fury of his mind fully unleashed.  He violently ran down the last of the Poles and turned back in a graceful gliding motion towards the black tower in the middle of the fields of carnage.

The maddened heathens engaged him as he neared the tower, as he turned towards his new attackers, he vaguely saw the fallen forms of Berchtold and Leopold, and anger welled up in him as he unleashed his fury on the wild men.  The remaining heathen warriors crumpled before the raw power of von Essen, those that resisted were simply crushed into the snowy field.  Their lives ended by being broken by an unimaginable force, like the weight of the moon settled upon their mortal forms.  Once again, Wilhelm von Essen had cleaned a front of the battle and began to gracefully turn back towards the tower and the final massed foe.  The horde of demonic forces that Steffan and Valten had launched themselves into.  Of all his brothers, Steffan and Valten were the most capable in combat, he vaguely hoped that they may still be alive.

As Wilhelm glided forward into the gathered mass of the demon horde, he passed over the torso of Valten.  Poor Valten, his closest friend did not deserve such a fate.  Anger brewed deeper and darker in von Essen as he slowly moved into the gathering of demons, who seemed to be enthralled with something happening in a clearing in the middle of their masses, so much so that they did not realize their doom was upon them.

With renewed anger for his fallen friend Valten, Wilhelm crushed the life from his enemies with such vigor that many of them simply imploded into bloody pulp.  Before him in the opening Wilhelm saw the heavily muscled form of a man-like demon holding his brother Steffan by the neck.  He saw the sudden snap, the toss to the ground and the hungry attack of the hellhounds upon the broken body of his brother.  Unbridled rage overtook him.  Wilhelm had always guarded his use of anger or rage to fuel his psychic abilities.  He knew that using anger in such a way was especially dangerous if he wanted to stay in control of his mind.  Anger and hatred can cloud the focus of the mind, and they can lead the unprepared psychic warrior to a very dark place.  A place some may never return from.  That was a fear he lived with whenever he tapped into that dark power within him.  Wilhelm von Essen had always been able to control the power.

Seeing Steffan die before him, on top of the deaths of all of his brothers torn his control away from him.  Wilhelm ceased to exist at that moment; darkness occupied his body relegating his soul to the deepest recesses of his mind.  He became a pure elemental force of destruction.  The chitinous bodies of the demons snapped and crackled into nothingness before him.  The hellhounds broke from their maddening rage and sprinted towards the forest.  Wilhelm’s power raced ahead of him clipping most of the hellhounds as they ran crushing them into pulp.

Only the massive Deshnak and the four dark, abyssal wizards stood their ground.

“Blind him with darkness,” hissed the orange wizard.  The other three wizards conjured up their energy and it shot our and formed a thick black haze over the head of von Essen.

The hovering form of the knight stopped in the midst of the black haze.  The elemental force had no direction to unleash itself without a visible target.  So the usurped form of von Essen hovered in place.  The orange wizard conjured up a mystic chain that he bound around the neck of the Wilhelm.  The other magi turned and chanted as they walked towards the forest beyond.  Deshnak picked up the axe of the fallen von Dienheim and looked at its edge.  He shrugged and with a sudden swing he lopped of the head of its previous owner, and strode confidently towards the forest.  The orange wizard tugged the mystic chain and moved the hooded form of the fallen knight behind him as they too disappeared into the forest.

With their passing into the forest, the fields around the Tower of Dreams fell silent save for the carrion call of crows that had been high in the air for much of the day.

It was recorded by the chroniclers of such events that the Brotherhood of Olympus ceased to exist on that grim Friday the thirteenth, in the year 1469, in the lands of Prussia.  And so to, was the succession of knighthood ended, and the Code lost for antiquity.