Even as Ath-gar-nel grew up, some elders continued to insist that to fight more than one foe was unholy, akin to the evil deeds that had brought about the fall of the Nezgeth empire. This thinking had stamped itself firmly in the proud Warrior’s traditional mind. Ath-gar-nel himself remembered an especially violent campaign that had been the glory of the Nezgeth tribe during his sixteenth year. A rival tribe to the south had challenged the Nezgeth oasis rights, one of the more ambitious enemy warriors moving to strengthen his stranglehold on the region. For many months the battle waged on, interrupted more than once by an obscure Nezgeth religious tradition.

As Nezgeth Warrior, Ath-garl-nel and he alone had the knowledge of the list of past Warriors, a list that started with that strange and difficult man who had fought for the tribe just eleven years ago, and ended with mysterious names of Warriors from long ago, from a time before the exile itself.

Oracle of 392 GUE placed the fallen Implementor Belegur at the heart of a deadly plague that shook the kingdom of Quendor. Coupled with famine, this was a deadly time. Mareilon groaned under the agony of food riots. The mayor gave a direct order to the city guards to curb the riots, only to find out later that they helped to instigate them. Even though the handful of remaining magicians of Quendor fused their powers together to defeat the plague and pestilence, the resulting tension between the mayor and the guards never successfully healed, and lasted even into the conflicts of 398 GUE.  Although the Great Famine in Quendor had been confidently dealt with by Zylon the Aged, those outside the kingdom, in the Kovalli Desert suffered greatly. This unceasing famine would plague those barren lands for over six years. Throughout the course of languishing under the torture of the drought, the Nezgeth tribe was under the superstition that their gods had turned away from them, abandoning them to this famine.

The sunrise of the same day in 398 in which the Sacred Scrolls of Fizbin were discovered missing from the Galepath University library marked the end of the suffering of the Nezgeth tribe at the hands of the famine. For six years the holy priests had counted the sunrises, hoping and praying that they would survive to see the start of the seventh year. They believed a disaster of that duration could only have meant that the approval of the gods was no longer with them.

It is part of the Nezgeth tradition that the gods cannot forsake the tribe without granting one final gift of wisdom. To receive this wisdom is the purpose of the Brith-nel-fhet. This special ceremony, one of most powerful rites of the Nezgeth religion, was enacted to invoke the gods. For many years the occasion had never arose to enact it, but this was that time. For weeks the priests had to ready themselves to enter into direction communication with their gods. Three of the tribe’s highest priests entered a holy shelter, a dark cavern hollowed out of the sacred rock that marked the western boundary of the Nezgeth territory. With them prayed Ath-gar-nel, Warrior of the Nezgeth. He alone as the tribal chieftain had the power to act on the words of the gods. Though he had his own superstitious doubts about the reliability of the ceremony, he partook of it regardless. Thus the Brith-nel-fhet was enacted and completed, ending in the drinking of a potion that sent the four into a wave of unconsciousness.

When they awoke, new carvings graced the wall of the western side of the chamber. Where the previous engravings had ended on the left stood the newest symbol. It was a round pulsating object, clearly showing what they believed to be the pseudo-god Savitri’s punishment upon the Nezgeth tribe. Then six notches in the wall represented the years of suffering, followed by the symbol for the Brith-nel-fhet ceremony itself. Further to the right stood a tall, fierce man, wearing the robes of the Warrior and facing his numerous opponents fearlessly, determined to vanquish them all. Then came many symbols, all crowded together in a very short span of wall. Voyage, mountains, war, death, another great Warrior, the symbol for magic, and once, then again, then finally three times repeated, the compass rose with the eastern aim firmly grasping the spear of justice and retribution.

The pleased Ath-gar-nel was convinced that he understood the clear meaning of the symbols. No longer would the Warrior lead his peoples to the south for petty water squabbles with vicious natives. A new course had been decreed, toward victory, to the east. The Nezgeth prepared to redeem themselves, believing that the answer of penance lay in combat and the smiting of many cities and people. His years as the highest Nezgeth Warrior had been riddled with suffering and rebellion, and now he embarked on a religious experience that could in the end prove to be absolutely fruitless. Even those who did claim to remember the last such Brith-nel-fhet clearly had no idea about the outcome of that last distant ceremony.

The ignorant tribe did not realize that it had not been Eru, nor any of the recognized pseudo-gods that had answered the Nezgeth—they had been deceitfully lured into Belegur’s plot. The Devil had witnessed the entire ceremony, coming across it by chance as he had cast his mind out throughout the world in search of whatever might be useful to his machinations. Determined to use the entire Nezgeth tribe to cause much suffering upon innocents and to distract the nation of Quendor, he had carved those symbols into the wall.

After the Brith-nel-fhet had uprooted the entire tribe and sent them marching to the east, the tribe made quick time covering the vicious Kovalli Desert and arriving at the western edges of the Mithicus Mountains. The long march to the mountains themselves had been surprisingly uneventful. As if aware of the peculiar destiny awaiting the Nezgeth, other Kovalli tribes had kept their distance, uneager to start a confrontation with such a powerfully obsessed leader as Ath-gar-nel. Er would be the first sacrifice to end the deadly six-year famine.

Over 300 families of Nezgeth gathered on the ridge. Ath-gar-nel was annoyed at the word of the weak Erfolk. He had hoped for a series of noble and glorious battles, the kind in which many of his strongest and closest friends would perish so that the gods would bring prosperity to the Nezgeth once again. Ath-gar-nel demanded minimum violence against the village, which in Nezgeth terms, still implied bringing a new standard of bloodshed to the Erfolk. As there was no need to risk the tribe’s young blood in a confrontation as insignificant as this, the oldest males charged down the mountain first.

For the first time since the fall of Pheebor, the proud people of Er prepared for battle. But the brief moments were not enough. It would have taken an eternity for the people of that tiny village to ready themselves against the Kovalli hordes, for a dozen of the dark-skinned warriors were easily a match for the entire population of Er. The animals were the first to die. The children were ignored. The women were subjected to the most brutal forms of Nezgeth sexual wrath. And after the first wave of Kovalli invaders made short work of what little resistance was to be found, the rest of the tribe descended in a giant predatorial cloud onto the village. The Er provisions were raided and completely devoured. A dozen different campsites sprung up in the immediate valley area.

Of the Erfolk, a family managed to escape in a copse south of the village, and a young teenage girl managed to hide in an attic. Er still lived, but an Er only a twisted and misshapen caricature of its proud former self. The grandfathers were gone, beaten to death, leaving no one behind to tell the ancient and glorious, albeit quite distorted tales of Er’s firm stand against the eastern fops from Borphee. In the years to come, the Er storytellers would never seem to be particularly truthful or precise about the details of the day. While Quendoran history as a whole would speak of a devastating series of battles that saw a Kovalli tribe called the Nezgeth come to dominate the entire countryside, Er natives subscribed to their own peculiar rendition of the events.

The Nezgeth continued eastward to hunt and pillage, burn and destroy until the gods spoke again, revealing that penance had been done. Three days later, the Nezgeth horde fell upon the river city of Foo. Rumors from the outlying villages had come just a few hours before the invaders themselves, giving enough time to call to arms. In some sense, Foo could have been considered lucky that it had a chance to mount such a defense. Given the final results of the battle, that kind of luck had not done much good for the city, and the end had come, perhaps later than it would have, but inevitably all the same.

For a few tense hours the inhabitants of Foo were able to mount an organized defense. The local hunting clubs and shipping hands banded together to block off certain key streets, hoping against hoped to hold off the heavily armed invaders. Even the children of Foo showed a fierceness unfamiliar to the Nezgeth, except possibly from their own young. Gangs of alley-lurking Foo teenagers, too stupid to run in fear at the sight of painted warrior faces and gleaming stained spears, actually proved an annoyance to the distracted Nezgeth fighters. They were soon dispatched, however, and eventually the shear bulk of the Kovalli numbers proved to be too oppressive for the makeshift platoons of streetfighters. The Foo boulevards filled with the tall, dark invaders from the west, running every which way, shouting their eerie, mysterious battle cries.

Its entire population certainly outnumbered the hostile newcomers, but the complacent city-dwellers provided no fair match for the Nezgeth, long hardened by years of vicious sun and unforgiving tribal warfare. They sacked the seat of local government, and wrecked the provincial temple, the most expansive and beautiful of its kind within 200 bloits. In the wide city streets, familiar taverns burned to the ground. This city was no Er, and the Nezgeth were pleased, even challenged by the striking differences in this, their second battle.

In the final tally, Foo had lost many surprised, defenseless inhabitants, normal people who had just that morning been feeling normal feelings, thinking normal thoughts. Boredom with life, satisfaction in a caring marriage, ambition for a successful promotion, all of these things and more found themselves suddenly cut short by the unexpected Nezgeth visit.

When the Nezgeth tribe neared the river itself, its effect on the desert people was profound. None had ever seen a well or desert oasis deeper than knee height before. The thought of a powerfully immense flow of water that could swallow the entire tribe without a trace was frightful. Some of the more religiously inclined Nezgeth immediately concluded that a new god was at work here, a god wholly unknown in the desert lands. The rest of the tribe simply backed away from the flowing water in fright, vowing never to even get near, much less cross, something so completely foreign.

This fact did not go unnoticed by Ath-gar-nel, who had remained aloof from the fighting. As the day progressed he became aware of an odd desire to ensure that his blade remained unbloodied. Wandering the strange streets before him, he peered intently at the new sights, wondering at the magnificent people that had built such foreign works of beauty. He loathed the thought of killing these people.

The conquest did not halt with Foo. Bilbug and Termum followed the first two; all reeled from the unexpected and senseless invasion. The final region they would come to was the Jerrimore Plains. Here they inavertently came upon the armies of Galepath and those of Mareilon who were engaged in battle. The weapons and armor of these two nations were no match for the viciously barbed spears sported by the Kovalli natives. One by one, both armies were devoured.

In the meantime, having heard of the conflict between Galepath and Mareilon, the Quendoran army, under the command of General Griffspotter (who was accompanied by Zilbo Throckrod and Litbo Mumblehum) reached the Jerrimore Plains. They found that not even one dozen of the Mareilon force still lived in the valley, but the ground was fresh with bodies of many times that number. The civil war had already come and gone, the royal army merely late entries in a finished game.

Standing victorious over the entire battlefield were the Kovalli natives. The Nezgeth banded together on the field below, awaiting the inevitable charge from the Quendoran soldiers. The royal force was to be split in half, one hundred men waiting on the highest point of the ridge, to advance only if the first attack proved a failure. Zilbo reluctantly agreed to head the reserve force, allowing himself the fleeting hope that a victorious Griffspotter would save Zilbo from leading his men into battle. Griffspotter began the cautious march down the ridge to the Jerrimore Estates.

So that the men of the Quendoran royal army might arrive in the valley all at once, the order had been given to disperse the marching columns and have the soldiers proceed down the hill abreast of each other, a long thin line stretched across the horizon. In the middle of the line and just slightly ahead of the rest strode the general, accompanied on either side by one of the force’s several trumpeters and the Largoneth standard bearer. As the approaching force arrived at the base of the hill, the watching Nezgeth warriors silently arranged themselves in a similar formation, a parallel line just as long but several times as deep making its way across the scarred meadow.

Griffspotter’s army drew close. The two lines stared at each other over an ever-lessening distance, neither enemy leader quite willing to give the order to charge. Neither leaders saw the lone Nezgeth warrior ready his bow, the arrow piercing the general’s chest and killing him. The Nezgeth chieftain whirled in anger, seeking out the lone archer. At the sight of the arrow hurtling toward the general, several of the Kovalli tribe had edged into motion, ready to run at the enemy at the sound of the order. Looking at their leader in surprise, it soon became apparent that no order would be given.

From atop the ridge, a single trumpet blast called out to the Quendoran army. Zilbo commanded for them to retreat up to the ridge. The only hope now lay in regrouping and hoping to last long enough to greet the arrival of the reinforcing units from the far north. The soldiers of Largoneth in the field below heard the lonely sound of the trumpet but sound not answer its call. Across the small gap that separated the two armies, Ath-gar-nel began spitting out orders at a furious pace. Again and again, several clusters of the Kovalli tribe broke loose and headed towards the royal army. Each time the Warrior held them back. For he knew that to fight again on that day would be unholy, a blasphemy against the gods, to try their patience. Soon the entire Nezgeth force waited peacefully.

The royal army, smaller now by one, reassembled on the ridge according to Zilbo’s order. With the death of Griffspotter, Zilbo had been thrust into command of the Quendoran royal army. Ath-gar-nel walked just within earshot of Zilbo and his company, crying out in a tongue foreign to them, all save Litbo (he had studied a variant of their dialect many years ago). When Litbo conversed with the Nezgeth leader in his own tongue, Ath-gar-nel assumed them to be “The Fathers from the East.”

Using Mumblehum as a willing intermediary, Zilbo managed to convince the Nezgeth Warrior to abandon his worship and join in conversation. Convinced he stood in the presence of the physical incarnation of generations of tribal legend, the Ath-gar-nel introduced himself haltingly and begged forgiveness for the ignorant attacks against the sacred Fathers from the East. Zilbo was more than willing to oblige.

While the leaders of both armies consulted, the royal army and the Kovalli tribesmen worked together at the task of gravedigging. The work had been going on for some time and now the Estates were gradually being restored to their former state. At first the Nezgeth had been hesitant to help in the work, almost none of their dead being counted in the number. However, Ath-gar-nel had insisted; they had slain the holy men from the east, and to dig their graves would be only fitting recompense for the misdeed. During the process, the Nezgeth captured Endeth.

Ancient prophecies told the Nezgeth that their goal lay deep underground, in caverns near the coast. Litbo realized that these Nezgeth were the ones who had been spoken in the Scrolls of Kar’nai and that Belegur could not be defeated without the help of a ‘desert tribe.’ He also realized that this prophecy describing Belegur’s lair as “a deep underground cavern where a river spills to the sea” matched with what the Nezgeth spoke about the cavern. Allied with the Quendoran forces, the Nezgeth marched for the lair.

The Lingolf garrison remained behind to guard the tunnel’s entrance while the Nezgeth followed Zilbo Throckrod and Litbo Mumblehum into the tunnel in search of what lay within. Deep and deeper they went, into the inky blackness of Belegur’s tunnels. They came to junction after junction, and each stretch of passageway was filled with side corridors and nearby rooms, as the explorers entered a more and more complex, self-contained universe. Eventually they spilled into a mammoth cavern filled with the same blue glow as the column. Amid the chaos of the underground, was scattered reading material and piles of fading scrolls and massive tomes, as well as an ornamental knife. And at the center was Belegur.

Litbo, keeping safely behind Belegur’s range of vision crossed to the middle of the chamber in an attempt to recover the Scrolls of Fizbin, but the fallen Implementor was not blinded by his advance. But at that distraction, Ath-gar-nel and the entire Nezgeth tribe struck in unison at Belegur. This further distraction broke his spell. Now locked in combat against the Nezgeth—one dark magician against an entire tribe—Litbo grabbed the Scrolls of Fizbin along with the other two missing manuscripts.

Though Belegur was able to hold them off alone, his efforts were divided. The blue column began to grow weak, flickering shakily with each further release of energy. In the process, not only was the Implementor successful at slaying Ath-gar-nel with a fabricated bloody axe, but Endeth was able to sneak up behind Belegur with the sacrificial knife in hand. Bringing it down, the single stab destroyed the current mortal vessel used by Belegur. With him, the crackling pillar of light shattered, and a shower of blue fireworks tumbled to the cavern floor. The gateway to the Timeless Halls had closed and vanished.

When the victors emerged from the Griffspotter Caverns, the Nezgeth believed that through the death of Ath-gar-nel, they had paid their penance. After choosing a new leader, the Kovalli tribesmen thanked the Quendorans, and returned to the lands of the desert sun.

One of the cubes of foundation was in the hands of Ath-gar-nel in 398 GUE, which, included with a fragment of Grueslayer, was used in the Brith-nel-fhet ritual.

SOURCE(S): Zylon the Aged, fragment from The Zork Chronicles