Embers of the Deformed - Prologue
The summer sun beat down upon the massed
ranks of warriors. Odours of blood, death and sweat permeated the air. There
was no breeze, only magic to hold the heavy air static. All wild animals for
leagues in any direction had fled. The river to the south, Tamlee, ran brown
and sluggish, polluted by the thousands of refugees that had been driven toward
Tamurr before the vast troll horde. Those refugees that could still stand and
hold a weapon, regardless of age or gender had been outfitted for war, and now
stood with the elven army, massed in the fields a meagre two leagues from the
Tamurr, like most elven cities, had no wall. It was a forest city, its buildings grown within the ancient trees, sung into being with magic. Those same enchantments kept humans out of the area; oblivious to the elves’ existence. The trolls did not appear phased by the arcane energies mastered by the elven magicians – they had power of their own. Onward they came, not only from their shabby log and hide villages, but in force from across the ocean. They did not conquer, they obliterated. The troll army kept no captives and showed no desire to rule over the elves of Arch’Bellrhay. It was genocide. The army standing before the forest of Tamurr was the King’s last hope.
Elven archers clung to every
tree behind their warriors, but they notched no arrows. A hundred thousand
wasted shafts had taught the elves it was fruitless. The troll army had brought
with them their most powerful shamans to unleash elemental magic upon the elven
nation, targeting their centres of government and their most densely populated
forests. Quan Findias Pervour, the King’s city, was razed alongside every elven
home within the Neque’Findias forest. The King had called upon their allies co-residing
in that forest to bear arms in defense of their shared homeland, but the
Druchii had refused to stand, melting away into the trees, and the elves fell
or fled south. Next the horde had fallen upon the vast forest of Crown’s Jewel,
reaping the bountiful fruits, vegetables and game the citizens had nurtured
there. Elven corpses and the bodies of their prized white horses lay where they
had fallen in the thousands. In death, the elves’ magic could no longer protect
them, nor their precious forests, and the new king feared human discovery in
addition to losing the war.
The new King, Az Rhay Qu’lan, had also fled to Tamurr accompanied by the last of his father’s army, his personal guard the Celestial Guardians, and seven legions of The Golden Ray; bronze armoured knights from beyond the Wyvernkite Mountains. Queen Marni of Wyverni’Tala had been generous sending her finest warriors, and without them Arch’Bellrhay would have already fallen, but clearly they would not be enough. They needed magic.
Mi’kale was not originally from Tamurr, but was impressed by the holy city. He was fervent that he would sooner give his life than see it, or the priesthood, fall. And he would. He had woken with the certainty that today he was going to die. He had been in Crown’s Jewel when The Golden Ray hastened through; it was the first inkling he’d gotten that war had begun, and he’d followed their wake as they rode out of sight. He shifted his shoulders under his thick leather armour, remembering. He hadn’t gotten far, less than a week’s travel, before the elven army was on top of him, retreating so that they could regroup and stage a better defense. He was forty years old, but he’d lied and told them he was fifty five as they handed him a stock sword and pointed him in the direction of a squad he could join. The horrors he saw every day since then had raped his innocence, and he knew now that at the beginning of the campaign he’d been a glory-hungry fool. Mi’kale was there when his hometown fell. He had helped find survivors hiding in the canopy far above and children hidden away under over-turned carts. He had seen the disembodied heads of his classmates hung from branches by their hair and cut them down. He had seen friends kill and die in turn. He had seen wounds fester, and the demons sent by the trolls’ evil voodoo priests haunted his sleep. He did not know what happened to his family. He did not want to die having never known a woman.
Battle horns blew. The bold brassy notes signalled the elven army, the hollow moan of wooden horns heralded the troll forces. Around him Mi’kale’s squad formed up at the direction of their captain, and Mi’kale followed suit. At a run they closed a gap that had formed in the elven front line, meeting a hollering band of berserk trolls head on. Mi’kale could not allow himself to think or fear would paralyze him. Instinct took over. The cacophony of battle was constant. The beat of war drums, chants raising power, the clash of metal weapons, screams of agony, dying groans, cries for help, commanders shouting instructions in attempts to maintain a semblance of order. Mi’Kale had never realised how many different sounds a body could make while you were ripping its life away. The sucking, slopping noises that accompanied pulling a blade from the stomach of a fresh kill. The heavy thunk of a lifeless flesh sack dropping to the ground. The gurgle of a man pleading for mercy as his lungs and mouth filled with blood.
If it had been a battle of arms alone, the trolls would not have stood a chance, of that he was certain. They were ferocious, barbaric and near as fast as an elf, but they were not one nation, they were many tribes banded together without a figurehead to lead them and thus they fought with little cohesion. They were undisciplined, the vast majority completely untrained for war; savages with spears. Yet their numbers appeared endless and they always seemed to know where the elven army was and what tactics they would employ next. They fought dirty, applying poison to their weapons before battle and spinning hexes throughout the night. They had no honour, but Mi’kale had long figured out that honour did not win battles.
The earth lurched a fraction of a second before an ear-splitting shriek dwarfed the clamour of battle. Mi’kale set his teeth and winced, but did not falter. He was within reach of a troll spearman who dropped his weapon and covered his ears; Mi’kale cut him down. The jolt that ended the earth’s cruel screeching threw every fighter into the mud, regardless of race or skill, as the ground was sundered. A gorge fifty feet wide and two hundred feet long opened behind Mi’kale, beneath the elven army. Hundreds fell into the deep gash, young recruits like Mi’kale fell alongside veterans nearing their thousandth year, and then in an instant their lives were ended as the earth boomed shut once more. Mi’kale didn’t spare a moment to glance back as he regained his feet; he only thought I am going to die today.
The fledgling elf found himself fighting beside Alaessia, a young woman twice his age who’d survived the fall of Quan Findias Pervour. She smiled at him, noticing his presence. It was the only acknowledgement they had time for. That she was still alive filled Mi’kale with renewed vigour and he cleaved the troll standing before him from shoulder to hip. Pulling his lip back in distaste, Mi’kale cast his eyes away as the body separated and did not see the smaller troll waiting just behind. A stranger’s entrails dangled from the shaft of the small troll’s spear, jiggling as he thrust at Mi’kale. Alaessia cut him down, graceful and deadly, but not before the troll drew blood. The elf didn’t give him the pleasure of screaming as the spearhead sank into is thigh; instead Mi’kale set his teeth together and wrenched it from his flesh. Thick blood surged out from under his pteruges in time with his pulse.
“I’m going to die today,” he told no one in particular, lifting his heavy blade to parry. The troll attacking him carried no shield, instead holding a wooden club in one fist and a wicked dagger in the other. A line of spittle hung from the troll’s open mouth. Mi’kale advanced, shoving into the troll with his painted shield. A horn blasted. He couldn’t remember what a long note followed by two shorter ones was supposed to mean. He swung his sword again, and again. Time progressed in snap-shots like photographs falling to the ground. The ranks of elves parted, and the thunder of hooves took the battle’s clamour to the next level. Someone snatched Mi’kale out of the way just in time. The light refracting from The Golden Ray’s armour was blinding. Those warriors who had lost their mounts in other battles or through hard riding charged into the fray on foot, clanging as they ran behind the cavalry. Mi’kale’s vision swam and his legs were slick with bright blood. The pubescent warrior was pushed from behind back to the front line, into an endless sea of enemies. He forgot who he was, where he came from, what he fought for. He did not want to die today.
was dark when he woke in the long tent that served to extend Tamurr’s
overcrowded hospital facilities.
“I am not dead,” he stated with wonder.
“That’s good,” answered a priestess he hadn’t noticed standing nearby. She offered him water, then checked his bandages. “By rights,” she told him bluntly, “you ought to be.”
“I know,” he answered simply. His eyelids were heavy. The air in the tent was thick and choked with the groans of the wounded. Someone was whimpering. Somewhere far above them a discussion raged, a war council Mi’kale assumed. He wanted to listen, but the blackness came for him again.
Mi’kale dreamed. He saw a
round room, high in the canopy, where the elven leaders gathered to make war.
They moved his piece on a game board, and he felt only dread. Was that the move
that would kill him? They were not the holy God, he remembered, they could not
choose to end his life.
“You can not make me die” He said stubbornly.
“That’s good,” a woman replied. His throat became wet, and he swallowed.
Holy Priest Qu’Cellin turned to him, but appeared to see right through him,
“We must look to the histories,” the old priest urged, “We have fought their kind and won, countless times.”
“Never on this scale,” a woman put in. Her voice reminded Mi’kale of honey and cool water.
“Once. Once on this scale, a long time ago. The church urged the Queen Regent to be merciful, else their kind would have been exterminated.” Qu’Cellin told.
“For want that they had been,” Muttered an adviser, then spoke louder to bring the discussion back into focus, “The King needs a solution, not a history lesson. He wants answers. Why is their magic so much stronger than ours?”
“It isn’t,” Mi’kale recognised the voice; it was Archmage Caleb, the paramount magician in all Tir Rhaycorda, if the rumours were to be believed. All elves had heard this man’s voice, for he could project it loudly over vast leagues with his magic.
“It is just a different school of energy work, and there are many shamans driving it.” Caleb said matter-of-factly.
“They bring the rain,” Someone
The thunder of it on the canvas roof was monstrous.
“They bring the rain,” Mi’kale echoed. He thought his voice sounded slurred. Somebody moaned, but the King didn’t care.
Az Rhay Qu’lan’s voice was
high pitched and demanding, the kind of voice that could easily be mistaken for
that of a child, though he had reached his majority more than sixty years past.
“What about the scrolls?” he pressed.
“We don’t want to do that,” Illadora, Crown Jewel’s last remaining mage, hastened to say, speaking over Holy Priest Qu’Cellin, who was more diplomatic,
“Those scrolls were sent to us to protect, so that they would never be used,” the Holy elf reminded the King. Az Rhay Qu’lan was not listening,
“Don’t want to?” his voice rose an octave.
“It would be unwise,” Caleb put in.
“Our warriors are being slaughtered. It won’t be long until our young are massacred too.” Commander Greyhawk of the Celestial Guardians stated gruffly.
“You do not understand,” Holy Priest Qu’Cellin explained, “The scrolls of which our revered King speaks are an abomination. They are the eight scrolls of chaos. Ministellis magic, taken at the dawn of the Age of Humanity. Nothing more evil exists in this world.”
The commander grunted, and an unknown
“I think that which descends upon our city is pretty damned evil,”
“We could destroy this world if we were to unleash such magic,” Caleb tried to reason.
Mi’kale was lost in a
nightmare, a vision where Tir Rhaycorda was no-longer round and ceased to
orbit. Faceless demons scavenged over the bleeding crater where half the world
had been ripped asunder. A little boy cried that without his people there was
nothing worthwhile upon the land, and an old priest was sickened by that
arrogance. Somebody was screaming, a mortal cry of unimaginable pain, but now
the demons were gone and the world was black.
“We will wait,” Mi’kale and Holy Priest Qu’Cellin spoke as one, “It will be our last resort.”
“You are dreaming,” a young
woman Mi’kale didn’t recognise explained, “but your fever has broken.” He was
in the sick tent, not in a council for war, he remembered as he looked about.
“Help me rise,” The young warrior told his nurse, struggling. Pain fired his leg as he dragged himself upright, he could feel the stiches tugging at his skin. “I can still fight,” he told her, “Bring a priest to heal me, if one still stands.” He needed to fight. The vision of a sundered world was stark behind his eyelids.
Her eyes darted around the
tent, no doubt other patients had also asked, or begged, to be healed with magic.
Mi’kale was wise enough to realise it wasn’t possible to heal everyone, or even
half of the fighters brought into the hospital. Many were being made
comfortable in preparation for a death they were unaware was stalking them. He
lowered his voice,
“I can go somewhere else,” he urged. She nodded.
“You could still fight,” she agreed with him. Leaning forward she supported the weight of his upper body and helped him to stand. Mi’kale inhaled sharply at the pain and clutched her shoulders tightly. Her hair smelt of sandalwood, rosemary and something far less appealing - illness. Leaning heavily on her, Mi’kale hobbled out into the downpour, limping down a ground-level arcade toward the church.
“So few leave my tent on their feet,” she murmured sadly. He wanted to tell her not to blame herself, but his teeth were clenched so hard against the pain he could not budge his jaw to speak. He rubbed her arm instead. He thought he would shame himself with tears by the time they finally reached the church.
“Not long now,” she tried to comfort him. Mi’kale grunted. The rain ceased.
The church was full of children and refugees who could not fight. Prayer echoed off the ceiling in one hundred voices, all muttering different words that meant the same thing. Candles were cupped in tiny hands, or burnt out beside sleeping faces. He wondered if there were enough children that they could evacuate and one day rebuild the shattered elven nation. It did not seem likely.
“We are not taking any more
wounded,” a tired priestess greeted them without preamble, “Give him the bitter
“He’s not for the grave,” the nurse spoke firmly. “He is young and strong, his fever is already burnt off and his wound does not fester. Restore him, that he could fight on,”
“We are not…” the priestess began to repeat.
“You bloody are.” Mi’kale cut her off with an angry growl. “We all must do our part."
“The church has…” she started,
“Hidden here like cowards,” Mi’kale finished for her, knowing as he said it that the priesthood’s part in the war had been greater than that. “Heal me, or find a Superior Father to tell me you won’t.” Sweat beaded on his brow and wet his leathers. He hoped he did not look insane and desperate.
“Seat yourselves,” the priestess said curtly, turning towards a door at the back of the long hall. Mi’kale was grateful as they sat down that his nurse did not chide him for speaking unkindly to one of the faith.
To Mi’kale’s utter shock it was the promising child warrior Qu’Corban who summoned them into a well-appointed cavern within the hill the church backed onto. In the chamber he led the pair to waited Commander Greywind and Holy Priest Qu’Cellin himself. It felt eerie to Mi’kale to be face to face with these elves so soon after his fevered dreaming. The demons and destruction his troubled mind had conjured were still too fresh. They asked Mi’kale where he was from and what his name was with their disconcertingly familiar voices. He tried not to think about the scrolls – He wasn’t even sure they existed! – focusing instead on what the commander had to say.
“We need a man, someone
fearless,” Greywind was saying,
“That would be me,” Qu’Corban interjected. Qu’Cellin frowned. It was obvious this was ground they had already covered.
“Not you,” Greywind told Qu’Corban, “Maybe you,” he said to Mi’kale, turning back to face him. Holy priest Qu’Cellin knelt in prayer by Mi’kale’s feet, both hands pressing into the wound left by the troll’s spear. Mi’kale gritted his teeth, and nodded for the Commander to continue.
“We have a desperate plan,” Commander Greywind told him, leaning forward in his urgency. The scrolls “It’s our last hope,” Definitely the scrolls, “The priests of the Holy Sun God have agreed to do this thing, though it grieves them,” The question was on the edge of Mi’kale’s tongue; the scrolls?
“We are going to animate the
Mi’kale was dumbfounded. He blinked. Maybe the blistering pain in his leg was affecting his hearing,
“I’m not dead,” was all he could think to say. Someone chuckled.
“I can see that.” Greywind replied, holding intense eye-contact with the younger elf, “I need someone alive to lead them into battle, this army of dead.” When Mi’kale did not respond he added, “Our dead, alongside theirs,”
It was blasphemy, and more than that, it was the height of disrespect. The citizens would be horrified. Would our army even consent to fight beside such an atrocity? His qualms did not reach his lips.
“How?” Mi’kale choked out,
“It’s old magic, naga magic, from whence we were but one people” A priestess spoke. Mi’kale had not noticed her enter the room. It was the priestess who had turned him away earlier, he realised.
“This is why we are not taking the injured tonight,” she stated coldly, “because before first light, we will fuel this spell with all our power, and those priests not strong enough, those who are tired and over-taxed wilt surely fall,”
Mi’kale glanced down at the
old priest chanting at his feet, and felt guilty. Golden light filled
Qu’Cellin’s hands, warming Mi’kale to the soul. He felt all the eyes in the
room focusing on him, and lifted his head slowly.
“What are my objectives, Commander?”
He was a captain now. Captain Mi’kale Brusch’ette. Not that any of the men that stood with him could speak, nor would the priests waste their energy to have the army of corpses salute. Only those bodies that had remained whole were able to be utilized, however they were all still very obviously dead. The stench of rot and evil permeated the air.
Some clever elf had dictated that Mi’kale should be made up to resemble one of the deceased, to make him less of a target; and he lead from the centre of the force, not from the front line, “to lessen the chance of being cut down” they had said. No one mentioned the crevice that had swallowed hundreds only a day before, however. There was no protecting against that. What remained of the live armies would flank the trolls, it had been decided. The Golden Ray would circle around from the south, marching through the Tamlee River, and the Celestial Guardians would descend from the north, emerging from the cave network that riddled the hills between Tamurr and the human village Trallinnar. Untrained recruits would bolster both forces, the priests would keep the dead men standing, and the lower mages would shield the flanking armies as best they could. The arch mages would protect the king within the safety of Tamurr.
Mi’kale was also layered with
magic, binding his men to him.
“They will fight as you do,” Qu’Cellin informed him. “It is immeasurably more viable for our holy order to raise ten thousand corpses who act as one, than to empower a mere hundred to act on their own.” The priest explained, “Thus, they will move as you do. They will not fight individual one on one battles for they can not think, and we will not think for them. So use them as a single weapon Mi’kale, and do nothing that will draw attention to you as one that controls them.”
“Yes, Holy Father.” Mi’kale said reverently.
They marched onto the field well before dawn. Immediately, Mi’kale wished he could command his army from afar, as many of the corpses towered over him, and he could not fully discern where the front line was. That, however, was an impossibility. The question had been raised during Mi’kale’s briefing, but it was shot down by Archmage Caleb, who claimed it would be a waste of the priests’ energy to stretch the link between the corpses and Mi’kale over a league. It made sense that the further energy needed to travel, the more energy that would take, yet Mi’kale did not see any of the robed holy order escorting his troops. What about the energy they are using to keep this lot on their feet at such a distance? He wondered.
Even in the pre-dawn mist, Mi’kale could see what a ruin the fighting had made of the once lush green plain. The fields were torn apart; the ground slushy, sucking at his boots. Great scars crossed the earth where the trolls had wrought their evils. There was no grass anymore, nor any deer, wild sheep or rabbits to mourn its loss. Broken weapons and bits of armour littered the ground, amidst trampled troll fetishes and badges of office. The army of dead crossed slowly, progressing as far toward the troll encampments as they would be able. The further the fighting was from the city, the better. Every foot stepped in time with Mi’kales own, their movements only a fraction of a heartbeat behind his. Ten thousand dead lurching in time.
They were not separated into regiments, squads or phalanxes, but instead came forward as a solid mass, stretching from the river bank to the line of trees where the rocky ground ascended sharply to the north. A horn sounded in the enemy camp. They had been seen.
Mi’kale drew in a deep breath, set his shield before him, and prepared to run until they clashed with their foe. Every corpse was armed similarly, a shield on one arm, a long spear in the hand, and a sword on their belt. Some wore nothing else; others came in the armour they’d died in. As one, the army locked their shields into a wall, holding their spears point-forward to charge. Not a single battle cry was uttered as they surged forward, no elf spat or prayed to his god, no troll laughed or brandished a fetish. It was eerie, even for Mi’kale who led them. He heard rather than saw his army crash into the trolls’ hastily arrayed warriors in two places along the line. He did not pause, pushing his troops on to trample the living under their uncaring feet. Blindly he jabbed and swung his spear, carefully avoiding the rotting troll who advanced a foot in front of him, in an effort to injure the foes he could not see. Sounds of the wounded, startled and dying reached his pointed ears, and he smiled. His corpses made no sound as the enemy hacked into them, and came on unerringly.
A league to the south Mi’kale heard a wooden horn blast the notes for retreat just as he glimpsed his first enemy hacking through the corpse of a woman he’d fought beside when blood still warmed her veins. The troll struck her full in the face with an axe, having chopped her shield to splinters on her still-raised arm. Mi’kale fought as though the attack were against him, bringing his spear up, over his shield to thrust diagonally down. The troll left his axe embedded in the elven woman’s face as he collapsed to his knees; her spear broken off in his collarbone at the point his shoulder joined his neck. The army fought on.
Mi’kale soon learned something that had not occurred to him earlier. As individual corpses finally returned to death not whole enough to be bound by magic any longer, large gaps formed in his lines that he could not fill. He had no way to make his army of hideous dead close their lines, no control over any one individual to make them step forward and fill the breaches.
He then discarded the spears, and to a man the dead drew their swords. A steely ring sang greeting to the holy sun as his first rays bathed the faces of the unwholesome force. Mi’kale laid about himself with his sword, careful not to injure his own, dancing with a foe that had not as yet reached him. Many trolls fell, others fled. Mi’kale stepped forward.
What happened next was only logical. As soon as Mi’kale saw it, he cursed himself for a fool. He should have known. The priests must have known, of that he was certain. A wall of greasy fire cut between those trolls that still held ranks, and his own fighters, setting the first ranks of men aflame. It was always fire. In all the stories, in every myth, the undead were defeated with fire. Mi’kale growled at his own stupidity. Anger and fear pushed him forward. With another deep breath, he slammed his shield into those either side and made a wall to push forward with his fury. He ran forward, his sword held low under the curve of his shield.
Flaming monstrosities trampled fleeing trolls and stepped over fresh bodies, pushing their faces into the mud. Through the wall of fire Mi’kale pushed his army. Through that fire he too would need to run. The wall did not appear thick, but its heat burnt the oxygen right out of his throat. He closed his eyes. He screamed as he passed through, but miraculously did not catch alight. Many others weren’t so lucky, and charred corpses toppled by the hundreds, igniting their comrades as they fell. Mi’kale lowered his shield, taking a step, slashing with his sword. Another step, a slash in a different direction. Step. Jab. Step. Parry. Lunge, step, slash. Bile filled his mouth, black smoke clogged the air. I must not die. If I die, my nation dies with me. Slash, lunge, shield bash, step, slash… He fought on in a burning nightmare.
He became aware of live elves on the field sometime later, and recalled the flanking effort. He did not have the energy to ponder their success, fighting frequently for his own life now as clear avenues to the centre of his army had opened. He was vaguely aware that the wall of fire behind them had continued its sweep to the west, even as his undead continued to light each other ablaze.
Suddenly, as one, the corpses around Mi’kale dropped lifeless to the ground, leaving him standing as a startled target for long sickening heartbeats before he realised what had happened, and let himself fall into the mud. He closed his eyes and prayed that he looked truly dead, as he’d never felt more alive. He could breathe easier here, with his cheek on his hand, the smoke laying a foot higher like a cloud, and he could hear shouts, some of command, others of alarm.
The scent of burning pine, oak, ash and even elder reached his nostrils, cutting in over the odours of death. The city would burn, he knew. They had failed.
Trolls ran past him in the hundreds. Some leaped over the bodies littering the ground, but most ignored them, running toward Tamurr and treading where they would. Mi’kale did not cry out as he was kicked and trampled. He set his jaw, protected his face from the mud as best he could so that he did not suffocate, and endured, grateful for his armour.
When the troll army was behind him, ready to ravage the burning city, time slowed down for Mi’kale. His heart seemed to beat once every hour. The wind picked up, swirling north-west. Was that the shamans too? He did not know. Gingerly, he allowed his eyes to open.
There was too much fire. The mountainside and the forest were ablaze, the trees along the river bank, the dead and the living. Even the sky looked to be burning. The fire laughed as it ate.
A force rippled out over the trees and flames coming east, not unlike a mirage of heat. It came toward him like a tidal wave, washing over the trees, elves and trolls to no visible effect. It refracted a mauve tint in the sunlight as it flashed forward across the field. Mi’kale did not understand what he saw, and was too far away to discern if he was the only one to see it. Time froze. The flames paused in their devastating dance, appearing to pulse – expanding and contracting unnaturally, without actually moving. The roar of wind filled the air, but no breeze stirred. Tiny warriors in the distance dropped their weapons and held their ears as a pitch they could feel rather than hear rippled out from the heart of Tamurr. Mi’kale dully registered that his ears were bleeding, but could neither force himself to look away or close his eyes. He watched, transfixed.
The last moment had an eerie sense of finality to it, and in that instant the fire turned in on itself. The intense heat was suddenly gone, like a heavy blanket cast off during a warm evening. The sound stopped also, not fading, but ceasing abruptly. Mi’Kale could still see the fire for a brief heartbeat – as though it was there and not there all at once – before his vision filled with bright spots, the kind one experiences after a light flashes in a dark room. He could taste panic that was not his own. Shock held him stationary as the trolls broke and ran, unable to comprehend the flawlessness of the darkness that had befallen them.
There was no fire.
There were no stars.
Not a glimmer, not the tiniest flame on a single candle, nor the roar of the mighty Sun God on high. There was no fire anywhere; not on any continent of Tir Rhaycorda, nor glittering in the skies.
Certainty struck. The war was over.
Some vast evil magic had been their salvation; and for that their God had forsaken them.