Against a blood red sky stood the Black Tower of Ultimate Blackness.1 Death surrounded it, literally, for a great battle waged under its shadow (and the other 359° degrees, too).2 In the sky above, opposing knights rode dragons (actually friggin’ dragons!) diving & rolling, jinking & juking, twisting & turning, blasting each other with fire.

It was 70’s album cover, basically.

Like all impregnable evil fortresses, The Tower had one flaw in its design. A flaw that would let a small band of heroes with calculating recklessness and disciplined daring to enter, odds stacked against them, outmatched, running out of time, with even their allies skeptical of success.

That band of heroes had just seen a change in leadership. Axos Pureheart, a plucky, young, orphaned farm boy, with the handsome (on the verge of pretty) good looks of a member of a British Boy Band. Yet a boy no longer, for he had finally slayed his mortal enemy, Self-Doubt, and become the leader he was born to be3.

Following him up a winding set of stairs with no handrails,4 was the sorcerer Kaylec, his mastery of the arcane arts evident by his long white beard, crystal-topped staff, and ability to run up stairs without tripping on his robe. He had seen the scared young man embrace his destiny and become the hero he was born to be. Long had the old wizard waited for He Who Was Promised, they prophesied Chosen One.

The final member of this trio was Shann, whose beauty was surpassed only by her prowess in battle, the latter being rapidly deployed if the former5 was mentioned within earshot. She carried a bow with which she never missed, even in rain and wind, and a magic quiver that never ran out of arrows.6

Her hair was that magical color that depends on the reader’s personal preference. It was THAT color. She possessed the low body fat percentage without the harshness that seems only available to someone in their late teens or in works of fiction.

Even a PeTA member would slay a unicorn for her.

She wore enough leather to cover the important bits but not so little to seem implausible but just enough metallic frippery to suggest armor but if one were being honest, it must be admitted that it didn’t provide much in the way of protection.

As the faceless7 hordes8 fell before their advance (their superior numbers ineffective due to their insistence on engaging the heroes in single combat rather than en masse) a bellow reverberated off the (evil) stone walls. A dread-filled bellow, full of hate and bile, pain and suffering, the emptiness and confusion of not knowing your purpose in life, the bitter regret of hurting the one you love and knowing that something is irrevocably broken between you, something ultimately unrecoverable, revealing the notion of your own intrinsic decency to be false and utterly shattering your self-image.

It was a hell of a bellow.

All who heard it froze and waited, like that moment right after you stub your toe but the pain hasn’t hit yet but you know it’s just about to–

–Suddenly, from some hidden alcove, recess, or antechamber, (naturally, the Black Tower of Ultimate Blackness was not well lit, making it hard to tell which) lumbered out a troll, seven foot tall (if he stood up straight),9 with splotchy skin like a ciabatta loaf, and sporting yellowed tusks due to poor dental hygiene. Like your uncle at Thanksgiving, he was incapable of being reasoned with and possessing all the rage of a toddler denied access to the toy aisle at Target©.

He carried a war hammer so large that it must have been more for effect than for practicality. “Go,” Shann said to Axos, ticking her head towards the stairs. “We’ve got this.” He nodded and raced towards the stairs as Kaylec let looses a blast of energy from his staff (wands being déclassé) before glancing back over his shoulder (the right shoulder, giving his good side) and caught Shann’s eye. “Shann, I…”

“I know,” she answered, for his eyes told her what words were inadequate to convey, (besides, he had a world to save and she a troll to deal with). With a determined nod the young hero headed up the stairs as Shann leapt into battle, eyes ablaze and heart afire.

***

On the top of the Tower stood a room. A dark room, a black room. In point of fact, said room was the tower’s raison d’être, for that exact spot, not just longitudinally and latitudinally, but altitudinally as well, was vital to the dark magicks10 to be performed.

Phobos, the twisted and deformed11 dark magus, stood dead center in the Chamber of Blackest Blackness, where the lay lines of power converge, where the luminiferous æther merges with existence, thought and dream are indistinguishable, where the equiprobability of ergodic phase-space reaches a convective time derivative of zero as the spontaneous symmetry breaks the orthorhombic lattices of the granulated quantization of space+time.12

Phobos, amidst arcane symbols, glyphs, runes, uncials, minuscules (and the occasional majuscule) from languages both dead and not yet invented, some of which, were they uttered aloud, would melt drive both speaker and listener insane. These were written in exotic powders from exotic lands obtained through means too terrible to contemplate, but surely there was something exotic about them. The room was lit by a plethora of candles,13 for although it was called the Chamber of Blackest Blackness, this was just metaphor, and some of the symbols were hard to draw, and given the sensitivity of the magicks to spacial relationships, precision was preferred over dramatic purity.

He held aloft his silver dagger, the very dagger that he had killed his old master with at the completion of his apprenticeship.14 Now was the culmination of his journey, the fulfillment of his dark desires, desires that had thrown the world into chaos, unleashing bloodshed, pestilence, and starvation in its wake. But is was worth it, no matter the cost, it was worth it.

Finally, his mother would see he was a better son than his brother.

The light of a demon moon shone through a specially fitted crystal in the roof, a light that would not shine on that exact spot for another thousand years. He was about to slice his palm15 (for all dark magics required blood) when the door burst open!16 Axos entered, the sight of which struck Phobos like a brain freeze. “Axos? But you died!” exclaimed the old mage, making a valid point.

“Died, yes, but reborn anew!”17 I survived the Threefold Death, traveled the Shadowlands,18 and proved worthy to wield Stormblade!” He held aloft the mighty weapon, its mirror-like surface reflecting Phobos’s own inadequacy back at him.

“But that means..” The sudden dryness of his mouth made further words impossible, also he wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

“–That I, Axos Pureheart,” the young man finished for him, “an orphan goatherd, am the CHOSEN ONE! Destined to defeat you and reclaim the ancient throne of my fathers!” His sword burst into green flame, as he began to flourish it. He was about to spin it around his back, when he thought better of it, a bit showy for a hero after all. “That’s right, I am heir to the throne, never knowing that the kindly couple who raised me were not my true parents, but that I was hidden from you as a child so that one day I might–“

What he was about to say we will never know, for at that exact moment, his head ceased its long association with his neck. Of course, such events rarely happen of their own accord, and this was not one of those moments. No, his beheading was the result of a sword. Not a magic sword, just a sword. Obviously a sharp one, but one lacking a famous pedigree, sporting no ornamentation, baring no trademarkable name, and not particularly well balanced. No, the key was the wielder of the blade, Lord Stormpike, and if the name wasn’t enough of a giveaway as to his wickedness, then the fact that he lopped off a dude’s head from behind should be ample. Stormpike was Phobos’s Lord of War, his consigliere, his tip of the spear, his straw that stirs the drink, his henchiest of henchmen.

The vile necromancer cackled, he cackled the pent up cackle of villains immemorial denied their triumph. He slit his palm, his blood spilling in the center of the pentagram19 drawn on the floor.

Creation groaned, Eorðe shook, even the sky itself seemed to tremble, as if someone smacked a movie screen. It was if a certain portion of all the good in the world just drained away, pixies dropped from from the sky, dead, and ugly ducklings no longer turn into beautiful swans, they just stayed ugly, and no soufflé would ever again rise. Darkness spread across the land.20

Goodness failed and villainy was triumphant.


  1. Or at least that was the rough translation. For in the world of Eorðe, the word for “tower” literally translates as “Dwelling constructed or found and altered such that it affords view(s) of surrounding environs on account of an elevated position and resistant, though not necessarily impervious, to siege(s), either martial or magical, and, or both”.

  2. Although to be accurate, the shadow would take up more than one degree, probably around 8° or 9° maybe? Say, round it up to 10° to make the math easier, so that would leave like 350°, give or take.

  3. Insert trumpets here

  4. OSHA being non-existent

  5. Get Former & Latter confused? Former begins with F for First, Latter begins with L for Last. You’re welcome

  6. Some have theorized that the use of the Magic Quiver posed too great a risk, for if the quiver were ever to be upturned, an infinite amount of arrows would then begin to through, threatening to engulf the entirety of creation before one had a chance to flip it right up. Others contend that given the finite size of the opening, it would merely clog the hole, rendering the quiver eternally unusable.

  7. Meaning their faces were covered by their helmets, not that they literally faceless, though given the nature of this world, actual facelessness was a distinct possibility. No, they were faceless, in that they lacked personhood, not only to those whose orders they followed, indifferent to their lives, hopes, and dreams, but to us. What were their dreams? Did they love their mothers? Did they have mothers? We shall never know.

  8. Although “horde” itself denotes a group, “hordes” with an “s” denotes a group of groups, of which there were.

  9. Trolls being notorious slouchers

  10. Adding the “k” makes it extra evil (he “s” is just because magic users are generally douches).

  11. Both morally as well as physically, but one should in no way assume a correlation between the two.

  12. Come on, that deserves a high five

  13. The candles themselves held no occult function, they were only present for their illuminative properties and were plain, white, tallow candles, bought in bulk to save money.

  14. Which explains evil wizard’s reticence to take on proteges.

  15. Admittedly, he wasn’t looking forward to this part

  16. Phobos had assumed locking it would be unnecessary.

  17. Obviously, any rebirth is “new”, but it just felt right for Axos to end the sentence on “anew”.

  18. The Threefold Death and Shadowlands both being good titles for sequels

  19. Naturally

  20. not metaphorically, the world literally got darker.