Location: Nektar’s Cauldron
Timeline: Sixth Age of Substance, 44th Year,Winter
There’s nothing like relaxing in all the comforts of home, right?
For me, it’s all about sipping a glass of the best red (1) from my favorite chalice while chilling on my throne. If you’ll recall, my palatial estate was located in and arounds the grounds that comprised the volcano once known as Nektar’s Cauldron (2) and my throne room (3) was on the main level of the palace — situated about halfway up the height of the 20,000+ foot mountain (4).
I told you before that I was kind of proud of my throne — for it was the work of my own hand — a crafting project I completed by using the bones of mammoth of a creature that once ruled your world. The four legs of the throne came from the gargantuan ribs of the beast and two of its larger bones served for the back of my cathedra — jutting up some twenty feet in the air — while a pair of shorter, six foot bones acted as the front posterns. All of the bones were burnished so bright they cast a glow around my persona – as befits the god I was.
Relaxing further into the chair, I waited for my slaves to bring me the Viperz Pesties and the prize he carried which was none other than The Grim. Prior to my last trip to Illusia I’d send Pesties on a mission to acquire that magical blade and I couldn’t wait to get lay my eyes on that prize.
Giddy with anticipation, I raised my cup – ready to toast myself yet again – but of a sudden, I dropped the chalice (5) and my hands spastically grasped the tusked arms of the throne. With my brittle fingertips scraping along the outer edges, an involuntary whisper escaped from deep inside me, “Iiiin-nnnaaa-nnnaa…”
“Ssssssst!” I tried to suck the thought back in. “Ach – don’t remind me of that harlot!”And as much as I tried to stop it, I could feel the glow within my eye sockets flashing green.
If you must know, the flame of my eyes wasn’t one of anger, but instead of fear – I I knew that the evil goddess Inanna was a cunning rival, and therefore an adversary that I needed to take seriously.
Although my mind wanted to focus on The Grim, I raised an ossified finger to my forehead and pondered a problem that had haunted me for nigh eight centuries, “If Inanna has Dagaal, that is going to be a problem.”
Then in a harsher voice I replied, “Damn you, Azazel, why did you ever agree to impart her with the Venom of the Vipers?”
In a calmer, more intellectual tone, I added to the self-dialogue, “Alas, I never thought she’d figure out how to use the spell. I merely wanted to keep her busy down in Ramos – far away from my kingdoms and unable to meddle with my plans.”
“Your plans? Pshaw!” cursed the harsh voice, as I slammed a hand upon the chair. “Fool! Now Inanna not only rules Ramos, but you have no way of using your Viperz to spy on her! She’s learned how to use the Venom in combination with her soul-sucking sex magic to brainwash them into believing that SHE is the goddess…that she is THE CREATOR! How could you not see this coming?”
“Well, it’s too late now,” defended my calmer self, palms up, my phalanges creaking as I spread them open. “I’ll think of something. I always do. I’ll just keep my Viperz out of Ramos.”
Brushing the disturbing thoughts away, I leaned back upon the posh cushions of my throne and placed my hands within the opposite sleeves of my robes, pondering further. “And perhaps, if I can use a few myz to spy for me too?”
“A myz? Are you a total nimwit?” grated the demon within me, as a new realization caused me to bolt upright again. “Inanna would tempt your myz with her sexual wiles so easily, she wouldn’t even need the Venom. She was made to do that!”
“Not so fast,” admonished the thinker as I raised a cautioning finger. “A myz, properly trained, and given certain special gifts, might be able to resist just long enough to find out if Inanna has Dagaal or not. Then he could escape and report back to me.”
The harsh voice scoffed at that, fist raised tight, bones cracking, “It will never work. Try something else.”
“Let me think. I will solve this riddle yet.”
“SILENCE!” shouted a new voice – this one the true, rich voce of my very soul.
Overpowering all other voices, my true self averred, “These things matter not to me. Even if I lost every Viperz to Inanna now, what does it matter? So long as Pesties has The Grim I am still the ultimate winner!”
And with that, I arose again from the sparkling cathedra and stood for an instant upon the dais, overlooking my vast throne room.
What’s taking my slaves so long to bring Pesties? I wondered.
The great hall was dark, save the central pit fires, yet their flames had long since faded – for I’d earlier sent them off with a warning I wanted to be alone while I waited for Pesties to be retrieved from his holding cell.
Nonetheless, the fact that my servants were not now available to answer to my whims only served to irk me even more than I already was. Quickly then did I storm across The Gallery; my heavy robes, still stained from my earlier mishap at the memory of Inanna, whisked along the uneven stone floor as I traversed the 500 or so yard to the main doors. Along the way I passed a multitude of strange objects that would have caused anyone else to stop and look, but I didn’t have time to relish in my artifacts.
As I reached the massive, iron-wrapped doors I saw that one was still slightly ajar, “So, my people were in such a hurry to leave my presence that they couldn’t even bother to close my chambers with respect? That’s going to be a problem…for them.
The rusted hinges groaned their resistance to the pressure of my touch — and the lack of proper maintenance only served to increase my anger.
“So, my lackeys don’t even take care of the palace while I’m gone? What else have they been lax with?” I grumbled, heaving the right door in rage, the portal slamming hard against the jagged stones of the outer wall, sending shards of rock cracking to the floor, dust flying in all directions.
Just then, a flash ran by.
“STOP!” I commanded – magic emanating out through my mouth, freezing the creature in its tracks.
The vizigob (6) slave, now helpless, was unable to move. Sweat pored from the scraggly mat of her hair as she struggled in vain, the muscles beneath her pockmarked green skin locked by my spells. I could see the horror in her eyes as I casually approached.
Standing before the goblin-like creature I salivated at the treat, “Who is your master, dungpile?”
The she-being tried to reply, but with throat constricted, naught by gurgles escaped from her vocal chords. Raising a hand, I casually waved a finger, allowing the vizigob just enough bodily control strain out, “Shay-duuu… Shedu Ma-zaaaii.”
“Silence!” I growled, towering over the pitiful creature and constricting her muscles again. “Do you know what happens to little goblins who don’t do their work?”
Pulling the ebon hood over my head, my face became shrouded in blackness – leaving only the green flames of my eyes to glow from the nothingness that peered from my cowl. Inside the hood, a malevolent black grume began oozing from the orifices and cracks of my skull – the evil sludge of a multitude of murdered souls, victims I’d trapped in times gone back, this merely a small part of their on-going torture – this also the soon-to-be-fate of the vizigob before me now.
The terrified eyes of the she-goblin strained against my magic, near bursting from fear. I let her horror build, watching in delight as her pimpled face bloated under the ever increasing pressure of my death magic.
The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last! I chuckled to myself as I backed away from my victim. Removing my hood, I could feel that the openings and cracks of my skull no longer showed a sign of muck or mire, and even the glow from my eyes was back to normal.
However, don’t think that meant the terror of my slave had stopped.
Instead, I sneered at the little goblin, observing the strain continue to build within her — the swelling causing the rags covering her body to tear, even as her torso, arms, and legs bulged out. Hair follicles blistered and popped, her teeth crumbled away from the slime that was her gums, and a black blood began seeping from her eyes, nose, and other bodily orifices. Soon enough, even the viscosity of her eyes overflowed in gook upon her now bulbous melon head. In short, the vizigob was about to burst!
Yet just when my victim was about to explode, then it was that I broke the spell and allowed her to breath life.
<Haaawp! Guuuulp!> The vizigob sucked hard at the air, grabbing her throat. And as her still bloated body began shrinking back to normal, my slave knelt at my feet, trying to scrape the hair and teeth she’d littered on the floor – clearly not wanting to displease me with her mess. Looking up at me, she smiled and I could see the utter gratefulness in her ignorant eyes, “Maaaaster.”
“Yes, I am your Shaitan.” I smiled, patronizingly.
The creature bowed her head in thanks. That’s when I raised an arm on high, the sleeve falling back to reveal the bones, and after a pause to savor the moment, I swung an open hard slap smack-flush against the vizigob’s skull!
My bony wallop was so hard that I actually knocked the she-goblin’s head clean off her body – sending it bouncing away down the hall. Her body fell with a thud, dark ichor pouring from the opening of her quivering, severed neck.
“And now, my girl, you shall never forget.” I mocked.
[I sense all of this is boring you – so try this on for size].
With the lifeforce of my slave’s body quickly fading, I opened my robes – exposing the nightmare beneath.
For there, under the black folds, was the anatomy of a god – in my case, this anatomy consisted merely of a set of gray, brittle bones – the skeleton unimaginably ancient and beyond your conception of time.
Let’s play a game, shall we? Let’s pretend you were this unfortunate little she-goblin. Can you handle the scenario? Not going to back out on me, are you?
What might you have seen if you’d looked into my robes? (7)
If you’d been lucky enough to have seen the true me (and somehow lived to tell about it), you might have observed that the middle rib on my left side (8) was missing. Now if you dared ask me why this was so, I’d have killed you in an even more gruesome manner that I did that vizigob! For the memory of my missing rib reminded me of one of the most painful experiences of my life – as this is the very rib that Baal-Zebub had stolen from me and used to create the dagger called Dagaal. (9)
Dagaal – the single most frightening object I could possibly imagine!
Dagaal – a weapon which had but one purpose – to destroy me!
Without a complete skeleton, I’ll admit that I always felt a bit incomplete.
Perhaps that’s why I ever sought to fill the internal void that always seemed to haunt me? (10) Perhaps that’s why I became a Soul Harvester?
This brings to light the second notable feature that you might have observed had you seen beneath my robes – for within my broken chest cavity there was a glorious sight – my legion of captured souls!
Like Lucifer, I was rather fond of cognomens. Over the years I’ve been called The Bone Collector, the Plague Bearer, The Death Reaper, Nektar, The Black Ymir, Azrael, Azazel (my TrueName), The Shaitan, Shedu Mazai, and so many other monikers that your kind has given me throughout the ages I can’t count them all, but above all else, I was (and still am) The Black Harvester of Souls.
And that ghastly hole left by my broken rib was the doorway through which I sucked unfortunate souls like yours into myself.
I’d collected untold millions of souls from Terra over the milennia, yet at the time of this story, my soul chest was empty. Why? Because, unfortunately for me, my master Baal-Zebub (and his father Zebub) were Soul Eaters. Thus it was that whenever I’d been forced to return to Illusia to replenish my <hellfire> Evil always robbed me of the spirits I was hoarded.
My recent trip to the Underworld was no different – although it was unexpected – for Baal-Zebub had summoned me to Illusia off-cycle and although I suffered more of the same tortures at his hands for my ‘unacceptable delay’ in freeing he and his father Zebub from their hellworld, ultimately I was released back to The Middle Plane to continue my work. Although I still roiled inside at having lost 103 years in the process!
103 Years of Lost Labors! The thought angered me still. How much farther could I have advanced my work if I hand’t lost all that time?
At a time like this, only one thing can calm me – a fresh soul.
Since my return I hadn’t yet had a chance to ingest a new soul yet. Thus it was that, as I stood above the mess that was my now expired vizigob slave, at that moment, only my own soul coated the interior of my skeletal frame. Yet without other spirits to <possess> my soul was empty – meaning that, had you seen this once-in-a-lifetime (11) sight, you’d have witnessed naught.
I actually mean naught in the literal sense – for it wasn’t that my innards were invisible or that there was nothing there. In point of fact, there really was nothing there, The Nothing.
The Soul of Death – my soul – my essence – was all and entirely Black – an entity of itself that blocked out all other sights within me. Had you seen into me, you would have witnessed this Blackness – and by the very fact that you couldn’t see through me to the other side, you’d surely have realized something supernatural was going on (12).
The Blackness that was my abysmal soul was no mere parlor trick – and had you seen the real me, you’d know – for the entity that was inside my body, was ever attempting to suck the life out of everything that was around me, questing to pull all other essences into me, so that I could <possess> them, so that I could grow more alive!
For surely you must realize that Life was the very thing that I, Death, craved most of all!
Since returning from Illusia I’d hadn’t yet eaten a single soul.
I was starving!
But thankfully my hunger was about to be sated.
For even as the beheaded vizigob’s body still quivered at my feet and the creatures next continued to eek out the remaining sludge of it’s innards, I continued to hold open my ebon attire.
And then, from beneath my ribs, my Blackness subtly swirled. An inky incarnation soon began to flow out through the hole of my broken rib. Sinister wisps wafting, scenting, searching – moving out and down to where the goblin’s body lay.
Then it was that The Blackness did appear to enter the orifice of the she-being’s mangled neck.
Yet just as quickly did my essence suck itself back out of the creature’s putrid body – only this time I was not alone! For my soul brought with it a new companion. As I returned back through the doorway of my soul chest, I pulled the spirit of the vizigob with me.
Thus is was that I’d harvested another soul!
And it felt awesome!
I kept my robes open for but a moment more. Enjoying the nefarious noire that was now not just myself, but also the murky little spirit of the she-goblin — itself but an insignificant speck against the black jet that was my soul, but still a nice appetizer for the future souls I knew I’d soon be gathering.
And with that, I closed my robes – and covered the supernatural sights within.
Turning on a quick heel, I sensed another vizigob hiding behind a tapesty in the passageway to my left.
“You there!” I screamed at the slave.
Although I hadn’t spoken with any magic in my voice this time, the bandy legs of the goblin turned to jelly and he fell to the floor, writhing in the pains of fear that he guessed to be his fate.
“If you want to live, bring the Viperz Pesties my Gallery,” I commanded. “NOW!”
Realizing that he was not going to be cruelly killed like the other servant he just saw me destroy, my slave bolted away, intent on following my order — and grateful to escape my wrath… at least for now (13).
And so I went back into The Gallery of Unholy Death, sank back into my throne and then waited for the spy Pesties to be brought before me with the prize that I had for so long yearned for.
I waited for The Grim!
- My ‘red’ wasn’t wine, but instead the finest Amorosi blood – regularly harvested from the ‘vines’ of captured Amorosi I kept imprisoned (in luxury!) to feed my appetites.
- The volcano you know call Mount St Helens.
- I called my throne room The Gallery of Unholy Death – has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
- Yes, Mount St Helens used to be a LOT taller – events in later books will explain the tragedy my one-time beautiful home suffered – at the hands of the accursed Drrukka!
- The blood totally ruining one of my most luxurious robes!
- Vizigobs were a race of creatures I created after a rather unfortunate series of failed experiments on the Derk people.
- Well, with your head smashed off, it might be rather hard to SEE anything, but let’s overlook that little tidbit.
- The location of where my heart would have been – had I had one.
- During the many tortures I suffered at Baal-Zebub’s hands the King of Illusia also claimed that this bone was also the original talisman that Zebub Itself had used to first create the shadow spirit that eventually evolved into my original self back in Illyria – yet that memory was shrouded by the mists of The Time Before and never one I could verify the veracity of. ]
- Hey, maybe that’s a viable excuse for why I do the things I do? Gee whiz, are you saying I can blame on my evil deeds on something that occurred during my ‘childhood?’ That none of my sins are my fault? I wonder if A’H will buy that excuse and reduce my penance? It’s worth a shot, right?
- Literally ONCE in a lifetime – for after you’d have seen it, you’d be dead!
- Well maybe you wouldn’t have realized anything because maybe you’re not as smart as I am giving you credit for.
- What he didn’t know is that I planned to kill him and hoard his soul too after he completed the task I asked of him – but he didn’t need to know that yet.