Chapter Two

Chapter Two








Jacek Larkspur

Although humans had taken to evil with remarkable alacrity, love could not be completely eliminated, or at least the idea of love. He was from a family of myomancers, divining the future from the behavior of rats, While she was from a family of myrmomancers, divining the future from the tracks of ants. They were from two different worlds,1 and a love like theirs was impossible. Their parent’s disapproval entirely justified. hers did what any worthy myrmomancer parents with a modicum of good sense and decent breeding2 in their place would do; they hired an assassin.

Oh, not to permanently consign him to oblivion3, just mild torment until his family or friends could raise him up again, either alive or undead4. To that end they turned to the Guild of Death & Destruction (Local 329)5, seeking an assassin of exceptional skill, dedication, and cunning. Unfortunately, he proved too expensive and they settled on Jacek Larkspur.

Jacek strolled down the Avenue of Impalement just beyond where it crossed Impalement Avenue North (which ran East-West) and one block over from the Avenue of Impalements (plural), and near the "Avenue of Implements", a used torture device consignment store. He attempted to casually slip down an alley, but as one could at any moment be set upon by bandits, attacked by a vampire, or possessed by some dark spirit, strolling was not something one saw much of in the city of Phobopolis6 Primus7. It was generally accepted that it was best to keep your head down, accept your lot, and hope to die early, and maybe the Drodkip won’t notice and let your soul wander aimlessly in the unlife of the Shadowlands, forever betwixt the locked gates of the Halls of the Sun and the Pits of Screams.8

But Jacek was recently out of his indentures and newly licensed and accredited as a Journeyman Killwright9, his confidence in his own abilities, while not misplaced, did make him stand out amongst the general population’s furtive movements and shifty glances10, but such things came with experience. He made his way down the alley, its walls greasy and black like the pan of drippings under a BBQ11, a young man with a limitless future of discord and mayhem. Unlike most of the other young Killwrights in the guild, he was not going to content himself with one or two contracts a month with the time in-between spent in scarlet rooms filled with sin and iniquity, piss drunk and suffering from something that no physician’s leach or witches brew could cure.12 No, he had big plans.

He was going to make death his bitch.

His mood was so good in fact, that as he passed a man nursing a bottle of spirits13 in the alley, Jacek drew his rapier14, ran him through, and replaced the blade in its scabbard without breaking his stride, a bounce in his step that only comes with giving away one’s services for free15.

Jacek stopped where the alley dead ended, patted all his pockets and pouches, making sure he had all the things he needed, the things he might need, and the things he hoped he wouldn’t need. He then thumbed the hilt of his sword three times, making sure it could be drawn. It was time.

He made a sign with his fingers16[/ref], and a swirl of glowing green vapour17 coalesced into a Demkling, the lowest18 order of demon. Having already scouted and rehearsed the job, he had no need to break silence, his demon knew what to do and with two tentacles created a sling for Jacek to step into, while with two other segmented limbs it grabbed one wall of the alley’s corner and with two clawed limbs, it grabbed the other wall and proceeded to climb up19.

Once at the top, Jacek dismissed his monstrosity with a perfunctory wave of his hand, and looked about, looking for anything amiss. Nothing was, it was as it had been the three previous nights. He removed the bottled spell from his belt and set it on the roof along with his pack. Killing was easy, but doing so without getting killed yourself was an art. He fully expected the victim’s family to seek revenge, so he would cover his tracks, otherwise he could have just walked in the front door. When he made his escape, he’d break the spell bottle, blotting out anyone’s ability to track him by magic. It was not a cheep spell, in fact, it would eat nearly fifty percent of his profit on the job, but he was very careful.

He’d even bothered to follow the girl for a few days, just to make sure there were no unforeseen consequences. Pretty boring girl, really. She had a conventionally beautiful face, but not exactly memorable, sort of like a small market newscaster. Worse, she wore long dresses, so he couldn’t get a look at her legs. Not worth dying over.

He checked all his equipment, again, in the exact same pattern as he had below, and made sure his blade slid in scabbard, in and out, three times. You see, Jacek had OCD.20 Not severe, and beneficial to his profession in many ways, but in an ironic twist, for someone who needed order and control, his condition was something he couldn’t. Of course, he didn’t realize his condition, he just assumed that stepping across seems in the road with alternate feet was the right way to to do it, and figured other people’s failure to do so was their lack of perception at the intrinsic wrongness of not doing it. Satisfied all was in order, or was not in disorder, Jacek leapt from rooftop to rooftop, with nary21 a sound.

Stopping and stooping at a particular peaked red roof, Jacek jimmied the whorled window of an appropriate attic.

\*\*\*

With disapproving families with the ability to foretell their plans, the young lovers found it difficult22 to arrange their assignations. But nowhere else is humanity as willing to persevere, endure hardships, remain resolute, determined, and steadfast, than two teenagers determined to rut. Like Leonidas at Thermopylae or Horatius on the Bridge, they refused to surrender.

Their current rendezvous was in many ways a stroke of brilliance. Each could tell their parents exactly where they were going, no need to lie and sneak as long as they arrived at separate times. And their parents were thrilled, what possible trouble could one get up to there? Was it not their duty as parents to encourage their visits? Was there anyplace better to get their infatuation out of their system?

So they met at a brothel. While the rhythmic sound men succumbing to their animalistic nature and women mimicking theirs reverberated through the walls, the young lovers embraced, exchanged vows of undying love, while the occupants of adjacent rooms exchanged money, their room a bastion of rightness in a universe gone to rot.

They fell to the bed, fumbling with their clothes, not noticing the attic hatch swing down nor the silent figure dropping from the scuttle hole. As he landed, silently, Jacek drew his blade, his mind and body as one. Like a cat stalking its prey, there was only the kill. His heart beat slow and steady, all emotion, all desire, drained and set aside.

The girl giggled, crawled under the covers, they boy went to follow suit as Jacek slipped behind him, grabbed him by the collar and slit his throat, let go of the collar with a twist, imparting just the right amount of spin to the boy’s body such that he spurted an arc of blood across the room23 as he fell. He then cast demon-sign, and was lifted back into the attic, the door closing silently behind him, before the girl even knew what was happening.

That was the plan.

As he finished his cut, and spun him, there was no spray of blood, it just blurpt out, like a chocolate fountain at a buffet. While disappointing, it was just a failure of aesthetics, not of skill. No, the real problem was as the body dropped, Jacek glanced up and saw the girl’s head already peaking out of the sheets. Thoughts flooded into his brain, had he miscalculated? Had he made a noise? Did he step in something and she smelled it? If so, does that mean he has poopy boots? Why aren’t her eyes bulging in shock and surprise, and instead, why are they narrowing?

And the girl launched herself out of the bed and at Jacek. He slid back, wondering how to extricate himself. What he wanted to do was just run the girl through, but her parents were his clients, and although not stated explicitly, he took it that they didn’t want her killed. Or harmed (another set of options off the table). He ducked under an attack of fingernails. Now teeth, barely avoided, followed by a foot, which wasn’t. She was giving him no quarter, her eyes wild, bubbly spittle on her lips as she growled. She lunged, but he anticipated it and used her momentum to . She bounced off the bed and into the wall.

“Oops,” he grimaced.

And that was when he realized she was naked. The boy had been the focus of the job, but he had put some time observing her habits. He’d thought her a bit skinny for his tastes, but some people are meant to be naked, and she was one of them. But now was not the time, nor the place… well, it was the place, but nevermind…

His hand shot out, and he began to cast his demon, the girl glowering at him across the room, too far away to stop him—

—Her skin began to turn green. Oh, shit, he thought, she’s a witch.

She threw a green ball of flame, missing low and to the left. He was about to smirk in a way that he thought was roguishly charming, but reminded others of a stroke victim, when he felt an intense, searing pain at his wrist. He looked down. There was his wrist, his smoldering wrist. Just his wrist.

His hand was gone.

\*\*\*

Multum Parvo

He passed the door four time; twice, before realizing it was a door, once, wondering if it was the right door, and finally, whether he should go through with it. Multum Parvo didn’t think his first time would be like this, then again he thought it would have happened at some point in the last twenty-three years, although to be fair, he’d only been been interested in it for the past eight. He took a breath24, a nervous, stuttering breath. What if the password25 he’d been given was wrong? Outdated? Maybe someone was playing a trick on him, and were waiting to laugh at him? He knocked. It was the bravest thing he’d ever done.

The peephole slid open, filled by an eyeball, cyclops being the preferred go-to for peephole manning. The cyclops grunted, the rumble raising in intonation at the end, indicating a question. Multum stammered the password, barely loud enough for himself to hear, let alone the doorkeep. The cyclops grunted, leaned forward to hear better, bumped into the door, and turned his head, giving his ear that critical change in distance and angle so as to better hear26. Multum, gulped, a cartoon character gulp, loud and his adams apple bobbing. He spit out the password27, but before he had even finished, the door swung wide as the cyclops grunted with all the warmth and welcome a grunt can convey28 and suddenly, he was inside, pulled or pushed he knew not, only he knew it wasn’t under his own volition. A drink appeared in his hand, only slightly watered down, his quarterstaff replaced by cloakroom ticket, and before he could stand there awkwardly wondering what to do, the madam glided29 over to warmly30 greet him.

Two women slinked over, wearing only the suggestion of clothing, and helped him off with his cloak. He clenched. His mind, his heart, every muscle,31 every fiber32 of his being. He forced himself not to wince, as if he were anticipating a physical blow, but they just smiled at him. And not condescending smiles nor mocking, but warm, inviting smiles. Multum stood there in Lincoln green and brown deerskin, his hair in a mullet.

He was a ’fling,33 a human who wanted to be an Elf.34 Now if you were to say to Multum, or any ’Fling, “You just want to be an Elf,” They would bristle and say that they merely identified with the way of the Elder Folk, admired their bravery and honor, their affinity with nature, their struggle to maintain their culture, and their plight against the forces of modernity.

But it was poppycock35. They wanted to be Elves. They wanted to live in trees, shoot bows while leaping from branch to branch, to dance in the woods for days on end, recite poetry with the creatures of the forest, living in harmony with and never get fat.

Sure, real elves suffered from scurvy, endemic goiter, abscesses, ocular degeneration, and iron deficiencies due to their refusal to domesticate livestock or engage in agriculture36. Reading was considered a weakness, a feeble crutch for man’s inability to commit knowledge to memory. Even metalworking was frowned upon, the dwarf blacksmith37 had to be situated as far away from the tribe’s sacred tree as possible, for digging up metals was “rape of Mother Eorðe”. Weak or scrawny babies were left in the branches of the Soul Tree as a sacrifice to the Goddess Kar Danu and her retainers38. Then again, Multum could be forgiven for not knowing these things, he’d never met an Elf.

Until now.

With a nearly imperceptible gesture from the madam, an elvish female, tall and lithe, glode39 over. Elves, by nature, are regal, aloof, elegant, and inscrutable40. Multum, smart enough to realize he couldn’t pull any of those off at the moment, decided to freeze41. Without so much as a glance at him, the Elven courtesan took his hand as she glid past42 and led him upstairs.

\*\*\*

A shoulder, an ear, and a cascade of golden hair. That was his whole world as he followed her up the stairs, and it was enough. He didn’t “bro-out” and slow down to let her get ahead so he could check out her butt, he didn’t do the pathetic hair-sniff. He was, for the first time in his life, completely in the moment. All of his fears and anxieties,43 and there were a considerable number, forgotten. Is this what normal people feel like all the time? He thought. Of course, thinking about it pulled him out of the moment and all his anxieties came flooding back, and for once, some were legitimate.

Multum was an herbalist from hinterlands, his village known for brewing beer, especially its I.P.A.44 But there was a dispute over water rights with the neighboring village45. Multum had been tasked as his village’s champion petition Drodkip himself for redress. The village elders were fairly certain of success, but Drodkip had a habit of consuming the petitioner no matter his decision, so they bandied about terms like “Noble Quest”, “Hero”, “Noble Hero”, “Hero’s Quest”, “Hero’s Nobility”, etc. Multum, they said, would be their savior, his name invoked down through the ages, echoing through the halls of time.

Multum had no illusions, he knew the village despised him and as one of two herbalists in the village and could be spared. Or perhaps despised is too strong a word, he had never been bullied, never outright mocked, or ostracized, but he could see in the people an exasperation, as if they had long ago lost all patience with him. His every interaction seemed to grate on them, as if it were dinnertime and he was a telemarketer for the same company that had been told “not interested” and “please don’t call again” multiple times.

But the thing had be done, the danger faced. Although a man, inside flowed the blood of an elf.46 Sure, it wasn’t technically him doing anything, the village elders didn’t trust him enough, so they had written the petition down and he wasn’t even supposed to read it out loud but hand it to the Drodkip directly47. It mattered not. He would go before his dread lord and face death like a man elf.

But before he went to his fate, there was her.

She guided him into the room, spun him around and started to undo his jerkin as she backed him into the bed. He noticed that she was slightly annoyed at the rather exuberant sounds issuing through the thin walls. He noticed! He could read an Elf’s emotions! Most humans couldn’t, but he could. Had he developed the skill? Was it inborn in him? Was there some bond between the elven woman and he united them in understanding?

His train of thought jumping tracks her hands went up his tunic and somehow managed to undo the lacing from the inside. She smiled, proud of her trick, and pushed him down on the bed, spread his knees apart, and crawled over him. A loud THUMP caused him to jerk his head in the direction of wall, she turned it back with her forefinger. She straddled him, taking his hands in hers, guiding them towards her chest, his eyes growing larger as the distance grew shorter, inversely proportional as his fingers floated closer, until the tips felt the body heat radiating from her.

That was when Jacek came CRASHING through the wall.

\*\*\*

Mokrado Moorditch

From behind the bar, she took note of the new client, gave the "Have a good time but watch your step" look that marks the distinction between a Bartender who can keep the patrons in line and a mere Goon who knows which end of a mug faces up.48 The ‘fling wasn’t paying attention, but it wasn’t intended for him anyway, but to demonstrate her dedication to the madam who paid her salary. She watched as he was led up the stairs, thinking he was rather cute, for a human. She smiled to herself, quickly forced herself to stop, aware that humans couldn’t distinguish between an Orc’s threatening displays of fang and happy ones.

And Mokrado Moorditch was certainly an Orc. Nearly six foot six, with skin the color of the flesh of an avocado. Not guacamole and not turning brown, but that green to yellow mix of a good Haas or maybe a Fuerte.49 She kept her silvery-white hair short but well styled and favored clothes that displayed her impressive musculature. It’s true one tusk was shorter than the other, but that just gave her an approachability, like a hot chick with glasses.

She had come to the capitol to study Thrall & Subjugation at University, but the city had proved much more expensive than her parents had budgeted for and she was forced to take up goonery to pay for mac ‘n cheese & ramen50. And she did enjoy the work. While not a devout Orc, she was proud of her heritage and thuggery kept her in touch with her people’s proud heritage of wanton violence and destruction.

She waited until the coast was clear, continued to clean the same mug with the same rag as she had been all night, and looked down at the book she had behind the bar. Her hand was big enough to cover the opened book completely, so she wasn’t worried about being found out (reading being being generally frowned upon), and few of the other employees would give her a hard time, for most of them had grown up in the capitol and had never had much interaction with Orcs so all she had to do was keep eye contact just a bit too long and they would begin to fret that she was thinking of eating them. Besides, she had to finish before her bookclub (The Weltanschauungen Orotund Quodlibet Society for the Ratiocination of the Welträthsel without Obloquy)51 later that night52.

Cracking skulls by day, and books by night. Sure, she wished she could integrate the aspects of herself better, perhaps after college when she began to enslave town and villages,53 brawn and brain united.

Yet, there was a third aspect to her, a dangerous, forbidden aspect. Few suspected, and fewer knew. They met in shadows and in a world riven with evil, there are some really dark shadows but with a secret so terrible, they met in the shadow of shadows. Only there, could it be admitted.

Mokrado was an atheist.

Oh sure, she knew that Drodkip existed, she wasn’t a full blown Denialist54, but she knew that the Gods were fairy tales. Cythraul & Hundun, had not wrestled until they ripped each other apart, the pieces becoming the Old Ones, the Gods of Chaos & Entropy. Their children, the Gods of Light & Dark had not waged war, creating stars as weapons. She knew that the New Gods had not unleashed the Divine Mathamatics, adding their power, subtracting the Old One’s. Dividing their enemies, multiplying their forces. The square and the root did not lay siege, and they had not loosed IT, the null set, the empty pit of nothingness, the great void, the Nothing That Is a Number, the chasm of non-existence, the Great and Terrible ZERO by which the Old Ones were thus divided.

All utter shite made up by primitives to make sense of a world ruled by an undeniably powerful being, but one’s whose powers derived from natural, not supernatural means. After all, if Phobos were a God, why would he need to persecute certain avenues of inquiry and various schools of thought? She believed in reason. In facts. In her axe. Her two handed, two headed battle axe that she kept behind the bar.

As soon as she heard the CRASH from upstairs, she palmed her book and slipped it in her waistband, at the small of her back. As soon a she heard the scream, her hand went to her axe.

Now there are two type of screams possible in a den of sin and iniquity; the first is one that elicits eye rolls from the employees55. It was not that kind of scream. The other category, of which said scream fell, is to Goons as the sound of the can opener brings out the cat.

***

Falke Ostringer

She could kick herself.56 Everything was ruined, her secret exposed. Not to mention, she was physically exposed, completly naked.57 Rather than go for a killing blast, she widened the effect, ensuring that it struck its mark and sent the one handed man crashing through the wall. It was probably too much to hope that he’d broken his neck.

He skin changed to a pink hue as she struck out her arms, her dress lifting into the air behind her, every seam unraveled, the material wrapped around her, and the thread spiraled back into the cloth, re-stitching itself and clothing her as she stepped through the hole in the wall.

“Stop!” yelled the murderer, attempting to hold up his hand which wasn’t there, and then switched to the off hand. “The police will be here any moment and you know what happens to witches!” He was right. She didn’t care. Her skin changed to a reddish orange as she began to cock back her throwing arm to launch the ball of fire forming in her hand, when she realized something wasn’t quite right.

She’d enchanted her dress on backwards.

The fact that she’d managed even that is impressive. The witch with the backwards dress, Falke Ostringer, had never used magic before. All her knowledge of spells, hexes, curses, charms, enchantments, incantations, and invocations was theoretical, which was understandable, witchcraft being the quickest route to ones soul being forcibly separated from the body and ingested by the Drodkip and its former home possessed by a “what” rather than a “whom”58.

Phobos detested witches, they made the gelatinous membrane that functioned as his skin crawl. Some say59 it was because long before he ascended to higher60 level of evil, back when he was still man and male pattern baldness had not yet gripped his noggin, that a group of witches had forced his Warlock’s Conclave61 to open up admission to them, protesting their exclusion as sexist. Of course, no Warlock could join a Coven62 of Witches, they didn’t meet the requirement.

And here lay Phobos’s real hatred, said63 others. Warlocks, being male, could not create life, whereas Witches, with their lady bits64, could. Witches possessed power over fertility, growth, even creating life itself. Warlocks could kill, destroy, corrupt, build, fortify, or enhance, but they couldn’t make so much as a flower grow, let alone create ex nihilo65. There was no way to get around it, Warlocks were just half-witches, and for that inescapable fact, all witches must die.

And to die like this, all the years of training and hiding, wasted! If she was going to expose her power, she should have just used it to restore the life of the one she loved, rather than seeking revenge.

Stupid. She dropped her arms.

Jacek, Multum, and the whore66 let out a collected held breath. Multum looked at the strumpet, his eyes bulging. The bawd’s ear was round. The fallen woman realized the direction of his stare, felt her ear and smirked. “They’re fake, honey. You didn’t think”—

They were interrupted by the sound of stupidity.

“I knew you’d see reason,” smirked Jacek as he started to stand. Multum and the painted lady’s head both swiveled in unison to the witch, who was turning the color of a raspberry icee.67 He grabbed his courtesan pulling her to her feet and dragging her towards the door at the same time. “Now we have to figure out how to get you—” Jacek looked, saw the murder in her eyes and the ice in her veins. Literally, because she drew back her arm, ripping her sleeve at the shoulder, as ice and snow swirled around her hand.

Jacek tucked and rolled, Falke held her shot, noticed the couple at the door. If the police show up…

She iced the door just as the floozy’s hand gripped the doorknob. The harlot let out a scream68 as she was stuck to the door, Multum jumped back, so as not to come in contact with her.

Falke scanned the room for assassin, her skin turning a deep orange69. Probably crouching on the other side of the bed. She had to kill him. She would avenge the death of her love, sacrificing her soul for him. His family would raise him from the dead, surely. Probably fully restored, or as much as was possible, or at least not a zombie, at least enough to know what she had done for him.

She hoped. Maybe she should tell someone before. Maybe the ’fling—

—Her eyes remained fixed on the bed as her head twitched ever so slightly in the direction of the ’fling, standing frozen70. Whether she saw the movement or felt it through the æther made little difference to the bed. Her reaction bordered on precognition, firing a white hot blast of plasma at the exact spot where Jacek would appear from behind the bed. She wasn’t wrong. Her aim was true, her instincts correct, it was just that Jacek was very, very fast.

He sprung over the bed, planting his severed stump and ignoring the pain while grabbing a pillow with his good hand, he was clear of the blast before it struck71. He threw the pillow into her face, pinned it there with the stump and punched as hard as he could.

She dropped, out cold. Breathing hard, he looked at Multum and the wench, or at least her heaving bosom72. They both stared back.73[/ref] He nodded towards the unconscious witch. “Not a mark,” he said, proudly.

At that moment the door was struck by a blow of such force, it split it in two and the pieces flying into the room, the one taking the attached woman74 with it. It had been so fast that it was only after she landed that Multum finally ducked.

And then the axe-wielding female Orc shouldered herself through the splintered door frame.



  1. Also, “too” different. Her parents made no note of the pun because 1, In their language, it wasn’t a pun and 2, Phobos had banned puns.

  2. Unlike those degenerate myomancers.

  3. Which also happened to be much more expensive as well as denying Drodkip his right to feast on it which typically drew his ire (and the ire of a nigh-omnipotent despot is an ire you don’t want drawn).

  4. Again, depending on how much they were willing to spend.

  5. The Guild had formed from the merger of the Poisoner’s Union, Assassin’s Guild, Sapper’s Co-Op, and Berserker’s Collective, and controlled most of the non-magical means of death available to the general public.

  6. All cities were named after The Dread God-King* Phobos, each distinguished by a completely arbitrary mix of numbers, letters, pre-fixes, and suffixes, (for example, Phobopolis 3, was nowhere near, Phobopolis 3rd, but was near Phobopolis III).

  7. Primus was the capital city, and seat of The Dread God-King* Phobos’s throne.

  8. Known as *Hameshta-Gehan*, *Aaru* & *Avernus*, in Elder Speak (also, "*betwixt*" is an affectation in either language).

  9. His was still using his temporary membership card.

  10. Not to mention their shifty movements and furtive glances (nor their glancy shifts or movey furts)

  11. Or one of those filthy kitchens you see on a restaurant rescue shows where the owner can’t figure out why their business is failing.Then host teaches them its wrong to yell at your employees by yelling at them and they should listen to their employees by then proceeding to chang the resteraunt and menu without their imput.

  12. Penicillin having yet to be discovered.

  13. Not alcoholic spirits, actual spirits, the spiritual essence of living things, bottled and ingested, and highly addictive.

  14. Thinner blades being more evil.

  15. Like Doctors Without Borders.

  16. West Coast, yo!

  17. Things mystical get British spellings

  18. Therefore, the cheapest.

  19. My description of the demkling’s physiognomy is deliberately vague on the off chance the reader is eating while reading.

  20. Obviously undiagnosed. The study of the mind was not unknown in Eorðe but its practical applications were relegated to weaponization.

  21. Yeah, I said “nary”

  22. Which, let’s face it, was half the appeal of their relationship.

  23. He imagined it would become his trademark, like a sickle, and he’d be dubbed “The Scythe” or “The Reaper”, or if people saw it as a happy-face, “The Deadly Smile”

  24. Through the mouth, so he wouldn’t have to smell the stench.

  25. For the record, it was “recherché

  26. He did not cup his ear because one hand held a club and the other was relieving an itch in a part of the anatomy most effected by the fact that commercially available toilet paper had yet to be introduced.

  27. Which he mispronounced.

  28. Which isn’t much.

  29. As a vampire, gliding came naturally

  30. Or as warmly as someone room temperature can manage.

  31. Which isn’t technically possible considering flexion and extension anatomical movement requires one set of the antagonistic muscle pairs to be relaxed while the other is contracted.

  32. And that’s a lot of fibers.

  33. Short for “Elfling”.

  34. Most Flings preferred “Sylvans”, but that just got them mocked even more. Also, spelling it with a “y” is just some bush league, D&D Dungeonmaster stuff.

  35. Do men wear capes? If yes: Poppycock, if no: Bullshit. Also, poppycock is literally, “soft shit”! mid 19th century: from Dutch dialect pappekak, from pap ‘soft’ + kak ’dung-

  36. If asked, they would reply, “Mother Eorðe is not a broodmare.”

  37. No Elf would soil his hands thus

  38. Many of the Elves theological battles centered on whether crows or ravens attended Kar Danu, (and Elven theological battles involve real arrows). There were some who held that crows AND ravens attended the Goddess. These were considered “squishes” and hated by both sides.

  39. If you ever saw an elf, you’d know that “glode” is the only word for it, grammatical or not.

  40. Like Hitchcock’s Blondes.

  41. Not literally, although such things did happen from time to time, it being a fetish for some.

  42. “Glid” is also grammatically acceptable when discussing Elves. Also, it’s “past” not “passed” because it’s acting as an adverb to the verb “to glide” (yes, I had to look this up).

  43. He was on prescription strength leeches.

  44. Incubus Pale Ale

  45. They manufactured poison powders, pastes, and pills

  46. Metaphorically, because if elf blood flowed in his veins, he’d be an elf (Unless he was a vampire, and that’d be only temporary, and not technically HIS blood).

  47. In essence, he was like C3-PO & R2-D2 being handed over to Jabba in “Return of the Jedi” without the rescue plan.

  48. You’d be surprised

  49. But not a Mexicola.

  50. Well, the *Eorðe*, equivalent, probably some sort of protein baked in a dough or some kind of salt preserved meat.

  51. Eliciting a slight chuckle mostly to demonstrate that they understood the words, proving once again that a group’s "funny" name is funny only to them, and even then only on a conceptual level (like a "New Yorker" cartoon).

  52. She had to remember to bring the hors d’oeuvres which they referred to as amuse-bouche because somehow hors d’oeuvres wasn’t pretentious enough for them.

  53. After an unpaid internship with a prestigious band of cutthroats, of course

  54. Denialism ranged from those who denied the existence of magic, to the existence of the Drodkip, all the way to those who denied the existence of existence, claiming instead that they were nothing but the poorly drawn dramatis personæ inhabiting a mythopoeic pastiche drawn from better works, relying on the inversion of certain tropes and conventions while engaging in meta humor to protect the author in a kind of "irony armor".

  55. For there is nothing a scarlet woman despises more than overacting

  56. Literally, she was very limber.

  57. But mostly in quick flashes or in profile, so that the only way you could see anything is to wait for the home video and pause the blu-ray or sign up for Mr. Skin

  58. Which would require another body to inhabit as the body would start to reject the grafted consciousness, form and matter being incongruous, proving Aristotle’s Hylomorphic Dualism is correct (Suck it, Descarte!)

  59. They did so quietly, for officially, there was no time before the Drodkip.

  60. Or lower, depending on your view on your view evil.

  61. The Warlock word for Coven

  62. The Witch word for Conclave

  63. Past Tense. Phobos killed anyone who said this.

  64. technical term

  65. There is no defensible reason for me to use this as opposed to “from nothing” besides it sounding cooler.

  66. Which would be the title if this were an indie film.

  67. Which is blue, for some reason.

  68. It was a good one, full throated, piercing yet smooth, with just a hint of vibrato.

  69. Like a pumpkin pie, not oompa loompa.

  70. In indecision, not in ice.

  71. Luckily, synthetics had yet to be invented, so there were no toxic fumes from the melting of the bedding material. On the other hand, there was asbestos in the ceilings and lead in the wall paint, so pick your poison.

  72. He was still a man, damnit.

  73. Both people, not her breasts, get your mind out of the gutter!

  74. And her breasts.

A Poem

A Poem

O, how I long for you
when e’er we are apart
I return and its as
though time waited for us
Frozen ’til my return

All I build is through you
You are the foundation
Why did I wait so long
When you were always there
Waiting there patiently

For me to download you

-I call it “Minecraft”

Chapter the First, Stuff Happens

Chapter the First, Stuff Happens

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.

Prologue

Prologue

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.

Mongo

Mongo

Dr. Slamhammer saying something. Again. Him always talk. Him like talk.

Mongo not like talk. Leaky pipes drip on Mongo’s head. Mongo just henchman. Mongo not allowed to move from spot. Mongo contemplate upkeep cost of Evil Secret Underground Lair.

“Mongo!” Him yell, staring at Mongo.

“Yes, Master?” Him like when Mongo call him Master.

“I said, I am about to achieve my greatest triumph! Our… our greatest triumph.” Him trying to spread credit around after reading Jack Welch book. “I have created a new life!”

“Brother?” Mongo always want brother. Also want woman, but not made by Master because then she sister and Mongo not sicko.

“No, not brother. Well, not exactly. Certainly not biologically related although your creation did provide invaluable lessons and I think I’ve surpassed even that achievement. Don’t be sad, you are still my favorite.”

“Mongo not sad.” That lie. Mongo always sad.

“Then why are you crying?” Master squint. Master need glasses, but him not fond of acknowledging age related diminished capacity.

“Mongo not cry. Mongo stand under drippy pipe.” For super genius, him not very observant. Or good with basic facilities management.

“Then move from out from under it for God’s sake!” Mongo move. Mongo not sure Dr. Slamhammer’s best quality was consistency with orders. Him tell Mongo yesterday to stay put. Mongo not move since. Mongo follow orders. “Come, be the first to witness the dawn of a new era!” With flourish, Dr. Slamhammer wave at empty air. Well, empty air euphemism. Mongo know that air collection of molecules.

“I give you Cyborg Dinosaur Ninjas! I, Dr. Slamhammer, have taken a Tyranosaurs-Rex, fitted it with a laser-beam eye, rocket launchers for arms… you know, because T-Rex had those tiny, useless arms? Anyhoo, Empires will crumble, nations will fall!” Him find spotlight, raise arms and address the heavens. “From the wreckage a Ne World Order will rise with me, Dr. Slamhammer! A veritable God-King will I’ll be!” Dr. Slamhammer have dream to be God-King. Him always talk about it. It good to have dreams, he say. Mongo have dream. Mongo fly over rainbow on unicorn. Mongo think he not mean dream in same way. Mongo blink at empty space.

“Mongo not see dinosaur.”

“Of course not, he’s a ninja!” Dr. Slamhammer’s smile slowly fall. Mongo feel bad disappointing Master. Dr Slamhammer sigh. “I can see abstract visual imagination is outside your pervue.” Dr. Slamhammer not whistling Dixie.

“Very well, let me show you a Cyborg Dinosaur Ninja in training, so he’s still visible.” Dr. Slamhammer pull curtain. In cage a velociraptor with jet engine for tail and antenna sticking out head. “He’s just a brown belt.” Mongo not tell him brown belt have no meaning in ancient art of ninjitsu.

Dr. Slamhammer open cage. “Allow him to demonstrate.” Dr. Slamhammer grab old walkie talkie and press button. Dinosaur turn head and look at him. “Dinosaur!” Dinosaur cock head like doggie. Mongo like doggies. Especially cockerdoodles. “Demonstrate first kata!” Dinosaur does very good job with first kata even with jet engine throwing off balance. “Dinosaur, second kata!”

Dinosaur start off strong, but forgets place, demonstrating three strikes in row instead of two strikes and block. It try and correct, messes up again.

It start to shake, open mouth, hiss and roar. “No, dinosaur,” Dr. Slamhammer yell in walkie-talkie. Dinosaur jump on Mongo slash with claws. “No!” Dr. Slamhammer press red button. Electricity jumps around Dinosaur head. It start smoke.

It fall down.

Dr. Slamhammer run over to top half of Mongo. Bottom half Mongo still in Dinosaur mouth. “Mongo! Oh, Mongo, I’m so sorry!”

“Don’t worry, Master fix Mongo. Master fix everything.”

Master like it when Mongo call him Master.