Note: This is a rough draft, be kind.

In retrospect it seemed obvious that evil would require considerable amounts of paperwork. Even many sympathetic to Phobos’s demonic aims feared that his plan to rip open the veil of the Great Void and free the Old Gods would end the world, but that would have been a blessing for the living. No, the tombs emptied of their dead, untold horrors plagued man, and roses now smelt of urine,  and from the Fiery Pits of Avernus1 issued force reams and reams of paperwork2, but the world continued to spin ’round the sun.

It was the Thirteenth Age3, ten thousand years since Phobos’s victory, and once again humans were in ascendance. The Dread  God-King4 Phobos liked to pit the various races against each other, sometimes with humans on top, sometimes Demonkind, Elves, occasionally Orcs, and once or twice Goblins, but never dwarfs5, and paperwork, not swords, is needed for such machinations.

But for the man called Lord Stormpike6, the assumption had been that the responsibility for all the paperwork would fall on other people. Oh, sure, need to torture a beloved elder to bring a recalcitrant village to heel? No end to the hands that shoot up. Flay the skin off a freckle-faced scamp with a penchant for malapropisms and cute lisp? You can always count on someone to step forward and not only get the job done but to really dedicate himself to the task at hand.

Yet when it came to correspondence, charters, requisitions, orders (both issued and rescinded), directives, approvals, authorizations, and the innumerable paper trails necessary when one couldn’t rely on the rule of law in a world turned upside down and shaken until the foundations of the world had finally broken free of the shackles of “goodness”, there were no takers. After all, since evil was triumphant, wasn’t it incumbent upon everyone to lie and cheat about their taxes? Well, yes, but Stormpike still had to see to it that there was food on the dining table and that the bedding was as free from parasites as a pre-industrial society could manage. (Also, being left-handed, Stormpike hated that he always wound up smearing the ink).

And he couldn’t count on The Dread God-King* Phobos to lend a hand. He had no need for food now that he no longer possessed human blood, but instead Black Ichor, liquid hate, flowed through his veins. (Also, he spent most of his time torturing the living, commanding the dead, consuming the souls of the innocent, and bedding women)7.

Stormpike sighed, rubbed his temples and leaned back in his chair. “Rough day?”, said a familiar voice8, “You need not suffer any longer.  I hear slitting your wrists in the bath is quite painless. Relatively speaking.” He looked over at the severed head of Kaylec the wizard, hanging upside-down, tied to a chain by his beard. “Then again, you would have to start taking baths9.”

Stormpike gave the head half a withering glance,10 but it didn’t work.11 The head had been a “gift” from Phobos The Dread God-King* Phobos.12 Obviously Drodkip,13 being pure evil, wasn’t a big gift giver, and if there was any severed head Stormpike deserved it was the one belonging to the “Chosen One”, so he assumed that it was to remind him of his place. No one knew what Drodkip had done with the head of Axos14.

“You’re about due again, aren’t you?” Asked the head, eyebrows raised in question, but because it was hanging upside down,15 were in fact, lowered. It would be wrong to say that Stormpike had been granted immortality, rather Drodkip kept Stormpike alive. And while grateful that Drodkip had not consumed his soul, ten thousand is a long time, and even oblivion seemed a better alternative than yet another, unchanging , day. So Stormpike would slit a wrist, drink poison, or if he was feeling particularly melancholy, leap from the parapet.16
Of course, as Ruler of Death, Drodkip would raise him back to life again, and Stormpike would be angry and resentful, the fire in his belly would make him feel alive, and that was better than the emptiness that he felt before.

He took in a breath, let it out through his nose, felt a booger vibrate, went to pick it when–
–He materialized in the throne room. As he had been sitting in a chair a moment before, and now without under his butt, he hit the floor, jamming a finger in his nose. Drodkip laughed, evilly.17

Stormpike looked up at his lord and master, being one of the few men who could do so without becoming ill. Phobos the man had ceased to be that day, now many years in the past. The face of Drodkip looked  very much the same as he had as Phobos, but now it sat dead center in a mass of corpulent, oozing, veiny, flesh extending into a twisted tangle of tentacles, each seeming to branch off into smaller and smaller appendages, many of which wrapped around the rafters an held suspended, struggling, naked men and women.

“I’ve heard disturbing reports,” said Drodkip before wincing slightly as a deep rumble sounded as his flesh rippled. “Excuse me,” he said, holding up one tentacle while another holding a young woman, lowered down towards his head. The bulk of his “body” swelled as he opened his mouth. His pupils dilated followed by his irises, until there was only white. The woman screamed as she began to emit a glow, a glow that Drodkip’s eyes match. Something like dust in a shaft of light filled the glow and the woman seemed to deflate, her skin paled, her hair became white and Drodkip sucked in the particles. As his mouth snapped shut, the woman’s head dropped. He shuddered smiled blissfully,18 and dropped the body. Red circles formed on the floor and three horned demons lept out, scampered to the corpse and carried her off. Drodpkip looked at Stormpike with satiated, drooping lips.

“Where was I?”

“Disturbing reports,” Stormpike replied, having stood up, dusted himself off, pushed closed a nostril, and shot out the booger.

“Ah, yes,” Drodkip’s mass undulated, which Stormpike knew was his form of nodding. “Disturbing reports. I hear that a young, charismatic Priest of the Beneficent Torturer has had great success among Elvish.”
“Indeed, my Dread Sovereign,” Stormpike added, flatly. The Drodkip SLAMMED two tentacles on the floor.19 The ground rumbled and a volcano erupted across the sea.
“The Elvish were supposed to be the source of the next rebellion! Where am I supposed to get ripe souls, now?” He shook his victims in illustration.

“Oh, great and terrible, King of Blight, this Dark Priest will prove a worthy foe for the “Chosen One”,” here he used air-quotes,20 “Which will prove his bone fides and I confidently predict a band hope filled souls a thousand strong.”

“A thousand, you say?” Drodkip’s voice went up a couple of octaves.

“A thousand.” He waited a beat and added, “This year.” The Drodkip’s eyes glazed over, all the worry burned away and replaced with relief and anticipation, like getting the email notification the latest iPhone model has been delivered and is waiting for you at your home. And then it was gone, the pleasure was gone, replaced by insatiable need. Evil, at its core, takes a longing, twists it into a need, and then fills it with a simulacrum, spiritual Sweet ‘N Lo that tricks the senses, leaves the soul unfulfilled, and then requires greater and greater quantities of the pink packs to have the same effect as the first.

The part of Drodkip that was still Phobos, had a hole in his core, infinite in its need to be filled. So he had loosed the Eldar Ones, consumed them, enslaved the Gods of Light and Darkness,  and became ruler of the universe, but still the emptiness remained. Because he was evil, which is negation and corruption he could not create, only destroy and pollute that which already was. So he sat and consumed, fed on life. All life. He had shut the gates of the hereafter, all death lead to his maw. And all because he thought the emptiness at his core was special and different from everyone else. Because what he was really trying to do was to fill the hole with his own desire, trying to possess things he could never grasp, that act of trying changing them, transforming them so that he was left holding his own need and trying to fulfill need with need, stuffing it back into the whole again and again.

And to think, none of it would have come to pass had he just gotten a puppy.

Drodkip’s eyes narrowed and bore into Stormpike, who could feel the alien mind enter his. It was like deja vu mixed with the swirlyness of being drunk and the helpless, wrongness you feel when the car at the stoplight next to you rolls backward and you think you’re moving forward and your breaks don’t work.

“You seem sulky,” stated the wretched blob, not inaccurately, “you always get this way before you off yourself”.

“I was just catching up on paperwork–”

“I don’t want to hear it,” cutting him off, holding up a tentacle. Drodkip left his mind like the sweet relief you floss out that piece of BBQ rib from between your teeth.

***

Stormpike’s heels hit the floor, not realizing he had been standing on his tiptoes, stretching his neck and body, like a kid getting his height measured on the pantry door frame.
“You may go,” the Emperor of Evil21 either waved a tentacle, dismissively, or their was a fly in throne room.
#
“Typical,” fumed Stormpike as he exited the throne room, the door slamming and the two werewolves standing on either side slamming the butts of their pikes on the marble22 floors. “Bloody23 typical.” He stalked down the hall, his cape billowing dramatically.24 “He magicks me all the way over here, and then makes me walk back. You can be evil without being rude.”

He kept his anger on a low simmer the entire walk back, deliberately passing the Hellspawn Petting Zoo where you could feed them gnomes, which always cheered him up. No, he was using his anger, building into something, a weapon. Disturbing reports! Fine, maybe can see how he wouldn’t realize the dark priest was part of my plan, his knowledge of arcana is vast but he’s shit at strategy, but to really think there was any outcome I hadn’t planned for? Me? Stormpike, unmatched in battle, unparalleled in tactics, unequalled in strategy. He doubted me. Me! His pace slowed, Has someone been poisoning his ear? He had to will himself not to dart his eyes side to side to look for conspirators. If only I had killed him after I finished Axos. Or even after he had completed the ritual. Or anytime before.

Before.

Before he had removed his heart and hidden it because unless his heart was destroyed, he could not be killed. Phobos had secreted it somewhere safe, confident that it would never be found. Too, confident, thought Stormpike, but that was ten thousand years ago and none of his agents, spies, or lackeys had caught so much of a hint of it. He’d even hired an assassin to kill the Drodkip, on the off chance that he was lying about removing his heart. No dice. The assassin had done an admirable job, Drodkip, sword in his chest,25 shriveled, and crinkled, like one of those expanding hoses when you turn off the water. The dark clouds parted, the shone shone bright, church bells, long hidden, rang out.

And then the tentacles oozed up out of the sewers.

Stormpike, whose pride in his strategic brilliance was well founded, had planned for such an eventuality, having made sure the assassination occurred during his annual summer holiday decimating Elvin tribes. He waited until notified, and raced back with just the right amount of haste. And while disappointing, he looked back fondly on the purging of the rebels as well as those who had proved insufficiently loyal.

He went up to the parapet. It was time. He looked out on the city, sprawled in all directions, taking on the character of its ruler, not by order or dictate, but organically, life finding its way, even under the thrall of death. They did Drodkip’s will, true, but his will was not theirs, they still possessed their own. He could deal out death to all, but he could not make life. Out there there were still farmers, still mothers. And there was still hope out there. Drodkip had convinced himself it existed by his leave, that the only thing more satisfying than devouring a hope-filled soul was one whose hopes had been dashed.

But Stormpike knew that hope is what makes us what we are. He’d seen it on the battlefield, that a hopeless man had already lost his soul. Stormpike still held out hope. Hope that he could slay the beast and he would be hailed as a liberator, his enlightened rule forever remembered. And then he would die. Stormpike had no desire to live forever, it was a foolish dream for children and cowards. No, he would die, either without issue, or some inadequate heir, unable to live up to his legacy, and thus would begin a general decline.

All that Stormpike had built would collapse, for there would never be anyone like King Stormpike again. All rulers, nay, all men would be compared to Stormpike the Great and found wanting. He thought of it as his simple, little, dream. But he’d waited too long. He knew that something he didn’t kill would eventually cause him trouble.

He sighed, stepped up onto the crenelations26 and looked down. Things were running smoothly, Drodkip need not resurrect him for decades. There he would be, in Hameshta-gehan, the Shadowlands, the Fields of Judgement, where the dead await their fate.  He would wander the fields with the souls of the ones he put there. They seek him out, for the dead can still feel pain, and he would welcome it. Battle was his idea of heaven.

He lifted a foot, getting ready to jump when he thought he might as well as remove his sword belt, perhaps his cape. It wouldn’t look good, flapping up over his head as he fell. No one regrets looking their best in front of the Gods of Judgement,27 they say. But there would be no Gods to judge him. With the Gods of Light and Darkness locked in their respective realms the paths to the afterlife were closed. No heaven, no hell, only the ghostly half-life of the Shadowlands, or consumption by Drodkip.

Suddenly, realization dawned, the scales fell from his eyes, a light28 went off over his head. The afterlife, the one place no man29 can enter. That’s where it was, Phobos had hidden it there. He’d placed his black heart in hell.

Someone would have to get it.

<<<<>>>>


  1. Hell (which should have been evident via the context, but I understand the impulse to look up every word you’re unfamiliar with. The Romans believed Lake Avernus, inside a volcanic crater, led to Hades).

  2. And nary a date or revision level on any of them!

  3. There hadn’t been thirteen ages since Phobos’s victory, but he felt 13 was the most evil number with the former being the loneliest and the latter* being a crowd
    See footnote 1.4

  4. Phobos had formed the Consilium Nomenclatura to come up with a fitting name for his new status, but the committee soon dissolved into acrimony and backstabbing (actual backstabbing), and so God-King*, with the provisional asterix, was used.

  5. Because, lets face it, they’re frickin’ useless.

  6. Come on, no one is born with a name that cool.

  7. Mostly bedding women.

  8. Or it would be if you bought the audiobook and didn’t skip the prologue.

  9. His diction was perfectly clear, which is impressive, considering he was hanging upside-down from his beard. Have you ever tried to hold your chin steady and tried to talk by moving the the rest of your head? go ahead, try. I’m waiting. Isn’t easy, is it?

  10. He has a patch over one eye, remember?

  11. Being beheaded and reanimated by the power of darkness, a power that you yourself spent a lifetime fighting, leaves one pretty much unwitherable.

  12. He HAD to get himself to only refer to him by his full name. He’d seen one loyal servant make that mistake and now he was a loyally being digested for the next thousand years in the stomach of some nameless monstrosity that now lived under the castle.

  13. DRead gOD KIng Phobos

  14. That’s what we call foreshadowing, folks.

  15. Because he was hanging by his beard, which we established just two paragraphs ago!

  16. It was a really leapable parapet, too, decent view, no outcroppings to catch on or bounce off of., no wind to slam you back into the parapet, just a long, straight drop, to pavement below, no rocks, no crowds, a nice splat.

  17. It’s safe to assume that all his laughs will be evil from here on out

  18. But still evilly

  19. One of which held a victim, killing them, kerpslat.

  20. Does his villainy know no bounds!?

  21. Ooh, that’s good. I’m copyrighting that.

  22. Evil loves marble. Hitler, Saddam, Tony Montana.

  23. Obviously, being evil, he spoke with an English accent.

  24. he’d had it specially enchanted.

  25. Or what one took to be a chest-like region of his bulk

  26. That’s what you call those notches on the top of a castle wall. From crena, Latin for “notch”. It’s also where we get the word “cranny”.

  27. Which was a well known saying in Eorðe. Coined by the first embalmer some millennia before, but no one now knew that

  28. There being no lightbulbs, it looked like a candle.

  29. While the term “man” can encompass both sexes, Stormpike was a misogynist, and had doubts whether woman actually possessed souls.