Location: Nektar’s Cauldron
Timeline: AO 226
Eventually I awoke from my slumber. Still frightened, but without those tormented visions confronting me, I arose slowly and tried to pull my mind together. Given that my colleague Samyaza was the last lumenarc to visit Illusia before me, I started to piece things together. “That brute either has Dagaal or knows where the dagger is, but if BZ told him to keep a secret that was a mistake. That muscle bound giant is a mental midget compared to me and once I’m through with him we’ll see how has the last laugh!”
Walking away from The Doorway of Destiny, and into the interior of the mountain’s core, I soon found that my energy, and yes even my esprit de corps, were returning. For despite my recent nightmares, I realized that my little slumber had quite rejuvenated me – taking a cat nap for an entire year tends to do that for me sometimes. Feeling thus refreshed, my gait transformed from that of a weary zombie into one befitting the energetic tyrant that I was.
Soon I emerged from the unmarked tunnel that led to The Stairway. Walking on, I barely noticed the abominations that still lurked these deepest depths – repugnant creatures that I had created — species of arcane depravity that represented the many “unsuccessful” attempts I had made as a diabolical genomist trying to breed new races that might destroy A’H’s plans. Although I had disposed of these wastes by exiling them to these forsaken locales, somehow, against the odds, many of them still clung to the threads of impossible life and thus continued to reside within the caverns. All of which was just as well to me, for their presence successfully deterred anyone from venturing into these areas of the mountain that I preferred to keep secret.
Meanwhile – ever upward I tread, deeper into the fractured volcano that formed the apex of my mountain lair. Now and then the cracked cavern walls reverberated anew with my mad ravings – for I was indeed feeling quite good about myself as I paced faster up the steep incline, making my way from the bowels of the volcano, to the site of my throne room — The Gallery of Unholy Death.
The Gallery itself was located within my underground palace that itself had been carved by slave labor out of the rock of the mountain’s interior. Although the work of most of my Vizigob slaves was nothing compared to the legendary stone masons of the Drokka tribes, still I like to think that my palace grounds were nothing if not awe-inspiring.
My throne room was on the main level of the palace and was situated almost halfway up the height of the 20,000-some foot mountain. Among other fantastic sights, the room housed a spectacular ivory throne which gleamed with a blinding white light — proclaiming my dominance to all who beheld it. I was always rather proud of that throne – after all, I had hand-carved it – crafting it from the single skeleton of a massive creature that once ruled your world long before mankind was even a flicker in A’H’s mind. Indeed, my seat of power was not only a work of art, but it also looked quite intimidating, and was – I felt – the only suitable chair for a king such as me to sit upon.
The four main legs of the throne were actually some of the gargantuan curved ribs of the animal I had sacrificed for this venture. Two of the larger bones served for the back of the cathedra — jutting up some twenty feet in the air — while a pair of shorter, six foot bones acted as the front posterns. As for the seat area, it was fashioned out of some of the smaller bones of that creature – any sharp tips naturally carefully installed so as to point downwards, away from the padded sitting area. (1) Just as impressive as the craftsmanship, was the fact that all the bones of my throne bad been painstakingly burnished to a glaring white – giving the chair an other-worldly glow — the purpose of which was to illuminate me even further. For as you’ll recall, back then I always dressed in the darkest of ebon robes, thus my throne contrasted quite nicely against me with its glittering bones further adding to my striking presence.
By now I couldn’t wait to sit in my throne again, and as I made my way there, apparently my presence began to be felt within the kingdom – for I became aware of numerous servants hurriedly removing themselves from my path.
“Yaark, ze Shaitan!” yelped a Vizigob. The goblin-like gnome dropped whatever he was carrying, leaving it to clatter upon the damp stone floor, as he raced off.
“Zsst, sho ke sin….ba!” Another shrieked, trying to recoil back into the recess of the cave walls.
“Hooo…..Shedu! Kesta, kestaaaa” A third wailed piteously, running any which way but wherever in order to get away from me.
My response to all of this was simple – I smiled. For it was clear to all that The Master had returned – and that was just how I liked it.
“Their fear is good.” I whispered to myself.
Oh sure, I knew my creatures were not all that bright, but still they were obviously smart enough to know that if their Shaitan (2) had returned, then soon enough I would want to resume my unnatural experiments (3). And furthermore, unless any of them wanted to become an integral part of those grisly machinations, then it was best for them to try to remove themselves from my general vicinity… lest I call upon them to come partake in my delights.
And so they ran.
For now, I had no time to pay attention to the charade that played out around me. Instead I had important business to attend to; or rather I had an interruption to remove from my path in the form of Samyaza, after which I could then get back to my own important business.
I was anxious to get started on both accounts, for I felt that I had already wasted enough time.
“Ah, BZ, you simpleton.” I chuckled to myself as I walked on. “You really think you can control me?”
Oh sure, I knew I had work to do for my master, and I knew that Dagaal was supposedly up here on Mittengarten to threaten me into doing it, but even still, the mere fact that I had escaped – or was released, if you want to be technical about it – well, this only served to make my recent nightmares less frightening. Oh, they would remain, of that there was no doubt, and yes, if I did not complete my assigned tasks for the evil one, then the next time I went back to Illusia my lord would be even angrier with me. But all that was a millennia away at least, and the fact that my fool of a master was locked in its own prison world, well, this fact made his threats now seem like naught but…
…fading gossamers…just as so many delicate webs upon the fleeting perceptions of my mind. Ah…
I smiled at my own poeticness, believing (like a fool) that in time I could just brush away the nightmares of Evil. (4)
I realize now that I was quite mad – in fact, even back then, I think I was aware of that fact – but regardless of my insanity, I honestly did believe in the merits of my plans and felt like only I knew what was best for my purpose in life.
For you see, ever since I had been created back in Illyria eons ago, always had I surreptitiously sought to gain dominance over my own masters by trying learning their secrets. I realize now that the creator god knew this. And, despite its ineptitude, I think Baal-Zebub knew this too – and furthermore I believe Baal-Zebub even knew that I knew It knew my secrets (5). Therefore I never bothered to hide the fact from my master – for we both ALSO knew that Baal-Zebub and its father needed me to carry out their plans, and that without ME, neither of them had any chance of escaping Illusia.
As I mentioned already, Zebub had foolishly allowed Its essence to ‘become’ Illusia,’ and later Baal-Zebub had been imprisoned there by the high lumenarc Michael – therefore both of the evil ones were prisoners of the underworld. Yet I was not subject to that same sentence and thus could travel to and from Mittengarten. “The Plan” (6) was for me to live upon the Middle Plan in order to bring to bear my own evil works to try to destroy this dimension. If successful – if I could get A’H and his minions to abandon Mittengarten – then both Baal-Zebub and its father believed I would be able to release the bonds that held them. (7)
And so, because the creation of Death offered Evil a way out — perhaps the only way out – my masters allowed me to learn some of the mysteries of the universe that they had knowledge of. (8) That arrangement was just fine to me, for I reasoned that to learn even a smattering of the secrets of the cosmos and then too, to be allowed to escape the unctuous presence of my master, well really, what more could I ask for? Furthermore, once I was free from Baal-Zebub’s presence, I quickly realized that my own intelligence was rather spectacular – with it I began to delve deeper into Nature’s mysteries on my own, exploring their fathomless depths with my own eyes, in my own time, and away from the my lord’s overpowering persona. Soon enough I began to wonder why I shouldn’t be given the right to know ALL that there was to know about Life, The Universe, and Everything.
“Why can’t I be The Ruler of The Planes?” I would often ask myself. “Why should it be Zebub or Its son? Or A’H, The Great Deceiver? Perhaps THEY are merely imposters. Perhaps the true God is none other than Death Himself – ME!”
And that’s what I decided. (9)
As a result, now that I was home, I was anxious to get back to my own experiments in harvesting souls and unlocking the mysteries of the universe. However, because of Baal-Zebub’s threats concerning Dagaal, I had to at least be prudent and learn if there was anything I should be concerned about.
“Damn BZ, for doing this to me!” I cursed, shuddering in spite of myself at the thought that Dagaal might really be somewhere here on Mittengarten — laying in wait in the possession of an unknown assassin lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to strike me down.
I knew that trying to locate the blade via The Necronomicon’s death communals would likely not work — for I doubted that Dagaal had been handled anyone who had died yet, and I didn’t know where to look for bones to harvest for the project anyway — since I had no idea where Dagaal might be. That meant I had no choice but to swallow my pride and contact my colleague Samyaza — the self-styled ‘god of war’ who, like the rest of us immortals, had acquired more names over the centuries than I could count. His minions called him ‘Gwar’ and since that was easier to say than his <truename> I called him that as well.
“Ah, if only there was another way?” I pondered as I continued walking. “Perhaps I can have one of my creations look for it instead of asking Gwar about it directly?”
Even as I said it, I knew there was wisdom in my words – for clearly I couldn’t just come out and ask Gwar if he knew where Dagaal was. Even if he did, he’d never tell me.
For Gwar was another of Baal-Zebub’s minion of loyal immortals. Since he was a fellow godling of Illusia you’d think we’d be allies, sharing the same mission – yet you’d be wrong. Oh sure, on the surface, we pretended to serve our master with the same passion, but I don’t think either of us ever trusted the other – we each had our own goals.
“The God of War…” I let my mind wander, searching for a plan. “That’s it! I shall use Gwar at what he is good at – inspiring the mortals to kill each other and causing that chaos to spread around the world. I can use that diversion to serve my purposes.”
My plan was simple — on the one hand, I figured that the more creatures that perished in Gwar’s wars, the more bones I’d have available for use at The Necronomicon — hoping that perhaps one of the recently deceased might know something about Dagaal. On the other hand, to hedge my bets, I decided to send out hosts of my own servants to covertly search for knowledge of The Bone Dagger as well. Either way, I knew I’d find Dagaal — if it really was here on Mittengarten.
“Step one – contact Gwar.” I grimaced as I said it. “Ach, but who knows where that muscle-head might be?”
“What do you want, oh great Shaitan?” mocked Gwar when he finally answered my summons to a vision meeting. His massive body towered over the crowd that surrounded him and he was covered in smatterings of what appeared to be blood — human blood at that. Holding a pitchfork in one hand and a serrated sword in the other, the grey giant lashed out at the chaos around him as it appeared he was talking to me from the middle of a battlefield – one that looked vaguely familiar but which I couldn’t place just yet. Meanwhile, Gwar was not amused at my interruption. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
It was clear that Gwar had changed little in the centuries since we last communicated – to begin with, he was still as vain as ever — for even whilst he basked in the glory of the ongoing conflict, it was evident that he was also looking about to see who was watching him — flexing his muscles if he noticed anyone catch his eye.
“Pay attention!” I snapped. “The spring season is back in the mountains and you know what that foul weather does to me.” And feeling the pain anew in my bones, I got up from my throne and pointed at bony finger at him, “You’ve wasted my time yet again, you lummox – it’s taken me months to track you down and when I did you rudely ignored my summons. Why?”
Gwar didn’t respond immediately but instead casually took of his helm and shook out his long black hair — running his fingers through the curly strands. Barely paying me any attention, he said, “You’ll get over it, Shaitan, and frankly I don’t really care.” And before I could explode, Gwar continued, “Don’t you see I’m in Urra? Truth to tell, you have no idea what the humans are like here. You really underestimated them.”
“You mean you brought your minions across the Aravan Ocean?” I was stunned at Gwar’s revelation — on the one hand, I had no idea he would venture across the seas to interact with people half a world away – especially because we agreed long ago that his best chance to help Baal-Zebub would be by inciting war on TerrVerde. Quite frankly I wanted Gwar’s actions contained where I could monitor him – and that was on TerrVerde. I certainly didn’t want him loafing about amongst people who I’d long had well under control via my made up god Baal (10). And yet, in spite of my anger, I was also surprised that Gwar would have the desire (and intelligence) to pull off such a massive logistical operation. Has the beast grown some brains? I wondered to myself; meanwhile the scientist in me asked,”How did you get your army across the ocean?”
“Army? Pshaw! I came over here by myself to see what trouble I could stir up. It’s only humans and they’re just so easy to corrupt! I’m sure BZ will be proud.” Gwar smiled, “And speaking of our illustrious master, how is the old heshe? I trust that you had an enjoyable visit? Did the boss flash you its winning smile?”
“That’s no concern of yours!” I couldn’t hide a wince as I remembered all too well The Travesty’s cursed visage. “Tell me what happened over here. I’ve heard tales about multiple new wars between the Derkka and the Drokka — and that you were involved in the actual fighting?”
“Ha, now you’re the fool, Skeletor!” Gwar laughed. “Some wars – I wiped the field clean every time. Those Droks of yours thought they had some new kind of weapon, even named it after their coward of a god. Yet none could stand up to me. I got such a rush after destroying so many Droks that I decided to thin the herd of your Derks too. If you’d pay attention when you walk around I’m sure you’ll see the bones of thousands of your children.”
“What? How dare you come through my lands without asking me first?” Again I pointed an accusing finger at Gwar, “I demand th—“
But my rival cut me off, “Listen, you weren’t around to ask, remember? And I didn’t feel like waiting until BZ let you go. The next time we get together perhaps we can discuss my wonton behavior if you like.” And Gwar flexed his muscles again as he smiled coyly at me.
“Gwar, you have no idea what fire you are playing with. Don’t tempt my ire for I will destroy you.” My green eyes began to glow with a deathly aura that few had ever seen (11) as I descended the throne dais and moved closer to Gwar’s image.
Raising the hood of my cowl over my head, my sparkling eyes suddenly became the only thing visible within the blackness surrounding my skull. Then as a muderous ichor flowed from my sockets, I raised my hands and began chanting in the arcane, black language of Illusia.
Gwar watched with casual disdain, which only furthered my anger – and with my voice rising to a guttural shriek, I unleashed my fury upon him – sending out bursts of jade lightening from my bony fingertips to strike at the spot he was standing upon!
A loud crash sounded and sparks flew all about – obscuring my rival in a burst of flames. There followed a symphony of wretched screams for mercy and then smoke covered everything.
At last I smiled, and took off my hood. My emerald eyes once more regained their glossy haze – leaving no sign of the reddish-black ooze that had just recently seeped forth.
However, when the smoke cleared, there stood Gwar and although he appeared to be standing among the flames, he was completely unscathed!
Only then did I realize my folly — I had merely succeeded in damaging my own possessions, and the screams of terror I had heard were NOT those of the God of War, but instead the cries of my own servants — for I’d forgotten that this was only a vision-meeting!
“Nice show, mighty Shaitan,” Gwar clapped mockingly. “You’ll have to teach me that one. I really like that eye-thing you do — oooh, really scary! But anyway, don’t worry about a few dead derk. I’m sure you can always make more. Meanwhile I’m having so much fun over here that I don’t really know if I’ll be back anytime soon.” Gwar smiled again (12).
I sighed, trying to compose myself, and once again took my seat. “Gwar, my brother, I’m sorry for getting angry with you. I admire your wisdom.” Then, after a pause, “And I need your… help (13). Yes, your wars, they’re all well and fine, and you should continue to do whatever it is that you do best, but remember Baal-Zebub has asked us to coordinate our efforts. Our master grows anxious with us and that’s a dangerous thing. I think it’s time that you returned — we need to meet in person. I have an idea for a new war – one which could eventually embroil the entire TerrVerde continent – and I need YOUR help to accomplish it.”
“Sorry, old friend, no can do. Oh, I’ll be back eventually, but I’ve got a different agenda than you.”
“Gwar, get yourself back here NOW! Baal-Zebub commands us to—“
“OK, then, if that’s all you have, I’ll be going.” Gwar was now ignoring the conversation, looking this way and that at the renewed fighting that had sprung up all around him. “Yes, it’s definitely about time for me to go. See you later, old boy. Don’t make yourself too crazy. You should get out more, like me; see the world, get some sun, lose the shabby robe, trust me, you’d feel sooooo much better…not to mention how you look! Gee, Shaitan, you look like death! Oops. Silly me, that’s right, you ARE ‘Death!’ Ha ha ha!”
Once again I was stunned – both at Gwar’s total disregard for my powers and at his unexpectedly clever jab. Before I could respond, my rival added, “Anyway, Shedu, like I said, get away from that stuffy mountain for awhile, do something exciting for a change. I really don’t care what you do, just don’t bother me. Next time, don’t call me. I’ll call you. Well, whatever, ta ta!”
And with that, he vanished.
But it was too late, the God of War was gone — having cut off the visitation from his end. Still fuming, I was unable to accept the affront that had just occurred. “GWAR!!” I roared again, shrieking at the spot where he had stood, “GWAR, WHAT ABOUT DAGAAL?!?”
- OK, I’ll admit that I’ve always been one for creature comforts, therefore laugh if you will, but I’m not ashamed to say that my chair also had plush cushions so that I could have a relaxing rest whenever I took my place upon it. Those cushions added a modicum of comfort and were made not only from purple velvet, but were also filled with pazziera leaves — cleverly imported from the vile forests controlled by the Amorosi — giving my seat a soft, pillow-like feel. Jealous yet?
- As most of my subjects called me.
- Which was true!
- If only it could have been so easy.
- Did you follow all that? If not read it again.
- At least what I led Baal-Zebub to believe or that it wanted to believe.
- Or so they thought.
- Some… but not all; no definitely not all.
- Are you so surprised at my mania? I already said I was a tad insane at the time.
- I also didn’t want Gwar reporting that fact back to our master when he returned to Illusia.
- And none had lived to tell about.
- A more irritating smirk I have never seen!
- Oh how it pained me to say that.