Location: Nektar’s Cauldron
Timeline: Sixth Age of Substance, 44th Year, Winter
I’ve told you before that how a god views the perceptions of Time is much different than how you mortals agonize over it (1). As such, while the minutes waned as I waited for my slaves to retrieve the spy Pesties, I happily continued to allow my mind to reminisce about how I first learned of The Grim.
After nearly two centuries of doggedly grinding through my work in The Morgue and The Necronomicon, finally I hit paydirt when I opened the catacomb portal that housed Unknown Soldier #1,605…
“AWAKEN!!” My True Voice commanded the spirit whose bones lay exposed before me upon the altar of The Necronomicon.
The rough hewn walls of the cavern were bare and other than the marble altar there were no other furnishings, save for a small sconce holding a barely flickering torch whose low licking flames sucked at the air and (with the help of a bit of m magic) also drew in any of the myriad of atmospheric sounds that might pop up.
For I needed utmost silence to talk across the Great Divide.
You’re wondering – did the lack of light cause me a problem? Hardly. In fact I was rather comforted by it. Additionally, since each death communal was much more of a mental endeavor, compared to the more robust physical experiments I performed in the Life Labs, or the slow and painstaking bone classifications of the ultra-bright Morgue, here in the Necronomicon, I could enrich myself in the luxury of the night (2).
“You will attend to me — NOW!” My Voice spoke with a <POWER> beyond your understanding and Its sinister aura filled every nook and cranny of this truly macabre room. (3)
Yet, in spite of my commands, the remains of the Drrukka never moved.
So, you want a challenge, eh? I mused, looking down at what few bones I had to work with. Well, I’m game, my little friend. Let’s see who wins, shall we?
Upon the altar was laid out the half skull, spine, and left thigh bone of this Unknown Solder. It wasn’t much for a death communal (4) but despite the scant pickings of the skeleton there was somewhat of a bonus — for this particular set of remains included a nearly a complete suit of armor – and a rather extravagant one at that, with rings of alternating chain mail and rhokkium (5), along with a finely crafted short sword, embossed with a multitude of Drrukka runes.
“I say again, LIVE!” And with a commanding finger, I pointed at the bones, “RISE! Talk with ME! NOW!!”
<Rrrrrrr> <Shhhhherrrrr>. The bones rattled in protest.
“Come…to…me!” I raised my arms on high, the robes falling back to expose the impossibly ancient bones beneath.
Slowly, oh so slowly, did the remains on the marble slab begin to take shape – and I smiled, now confident that a another communal was about to begin.
Concentrating even more, I wove a deeper magic into the aura of the room, speaking in the guttural language of Necromancy, and with each flicker of the torch’s flame, the Unknown Soldier’s form regained more of its former appearance.
Yet all was not calm — in protest the warrior’s spirit rebelled at the travesty that was being committed on his remains. (6)
Caring little for the feelings of this once-mortal coil, I continued my exertions – until at last, Unknown Soldier #1,605 was a mystery no more.
Ah, it seems you are someone of importance, my friend! I surmised, observing the Drrukka warrior in his once-earthly appearance — a snapshot from the last moments of his life. Given the trappings of his armor and the way he carried himself, it didn’t take much guessing to realize that this was no common soldier here before me, but instead a Drrukka lord of great significance.
The apparition appeared to be of middle age, with with long black hair and a finely oiled, gold-ringed beard. Since this was a view of the warrior just before his demise, I snickered to myself as I observed that the seemingly impenetrable rhokkium armor the man had so trusted in, had in fact failed him to keep him alive — for half his face and head were missing — the result what must have been a truly gruesome blow to the skull!
As to why the ribs and torso were absent from this skeleton, my guess was that my slaves had probably mixed up this warrior’s bones with another’s when they first collected them – something I’d hold them all accountable for later! (7) Regardless of the reason for the missing bones, it didn’t matter now — I’d overcome that challenge and the communal was successfully in progress (8).
Continuing to observe my visitor, I noticed sparkling rings covered his fingers and that his luminous armor was intricately fit together in such a way as to form a kind of mosaic pattern of Drokka runes – a rather impressive work of art that I’d not witnessed on any Drrukka in the past. Further proof that this was no common soldier, nor even a Herr general, and I wondered how up the power tree this Unknown Soldier really was.
Fool! I thought as I looked at the way the Drrukka had outfitted himself. You went to fight a dangerous battle, yet your arrogant pride forced you to display your worldly and eternally insignificant wealth! It’s no wonder you were a target for my minions.
“ARISE!” I commanded. “LOOK AT ME!”
My spells forced the Drrukka to sit upright. His armor jangled as he moved, even as his hand tried to draw his sword (a move I stopped with the slightest wave of my finger). Eventually, despite his protests, the soldier opened his eyes to look upon me – the steel gray orbs staring at me with a mix of rage and fear.
Then it was that he spoke, “Whooooo…arrre yooooou,” the words came as if from some great distance, “Who are you… to call me back…. from Kawkawzuz?!” (9)
“SILENCE!” I roared. “It is I, Azazel, Lord of the Universe (10), who gives the questions here!”
The bones of the Drrukka raged in powerless ire – yet his attempts to return to the afterlife were of no use. For, I alone held court in this locale!
“Now,” I said in a calmer voice, “Name, Rank, and Kingdom.”
“ARRRRR!” growled the ghost, his long dead blood boiling, yet without a choice, he gave me what I asked for. “Fredrick Vendal…Kon-Herr…Drokka. Ruler of… Kel-de-Kaba.”
My, my. I was taken aback by the revelation. Frederick Vendal, Kon-Herr Drokka, of Kel-de-Kaba. I repeated the facts to myself, savoring them. My knowledge of the Drrukka clans well knew that Kel-de-Kaba was not only the military capital of the Drrukka world, but also the locale where the weaponsmith Hef Fastuz first hammered out The Ghast. My history lessons also included knowing that this Frederick Vendal was the Kon-Herr Drokka at the time when Hef Fastuz made The Ghast.
What did all that mean?
Simply this – that besides Hacktor Derkillez, this Frederick Vendal was the highest ranking Drrukka alive at the time of The War of The Ghast.
Surely, if anyone would know anything about another blade besides The Ghast, it had to be the Drrukka king talking to me now! I was suddenly so confident I could taste it, Kon-Herr Vendal will give me the Key!
Getting control of myself, I asked my visitor “Dost thou know of The Ghast?”
“Yes.” Grated out the Kon-Herr.
The positive answer caught me off guard, for it had been centuries since anyone had actually answered ‘yes.’ Quickly then did I test my guest — wanting to be sure of his knowledge before I allowed myself to hope further. “And who created this blade?”
“Hef Fastuz,” was the minimal reply.
“Did you know him?”
I repeated the question, “Did you know Hef Fastuz?”
“Tell me about the dagger.” I threw this question out there, hoping I could get an easy answer.
The Drrukka remained quiet.
Hmm, I knew it wouldn’t be that easy. I sighed, before letting my anger get the best of me and suddenly yelling out, “I command you to respond!”
Control yourself, old boy, I told myself, before saying calmly, “Did you ever see The Ghast?”
“Tell me when you first saw it.” Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t help my eyes from glowing with hunger.
My desperation was regrettable and it almost cost me — for the spirit of the Kon-Herr suddenly attempted to pull away from me, trying to return to Kawkawzuz! It was everything I could do to hold him and I had to expend a bit of <hellfire> to keep the communal going.
“Do NOT try that again!” I screamed, trying to control my anger and fear. “Fool! I will tell you when you have permission to return to the grave! Now, I say again…”
And so the death communal went on…
In fact, for a full three weeks did I struggle to extract answers from Fredrik Vendal.
It was an exhausting ordeal for both of us — and it cost me far more <hellfire> than I could ever have imagined. Yet the investment was worth it — for I learned more from this once Unknown Soldier than I’d learned from all prior death communals combined!
Unfortunately, while Fredrik told me a great deal about The Ghast, whenever I would try to turn the subject to a magical dagger supposedly created by Hef Fastuz along with The Ghast, always did the Kon-Herr dodge the question.
Finally, after it seemed the Drrukka king had nought left to tell (and that I was getting dangerously low on <hellfire> and thus could not hold the communal much longer), I tried one last approach – vowing to myself to give up if it didn’t work this time.
“Fredrik, my new friend,” I smiled outwardly, while secretly vowing to come up with new ways to defile the Drrukka’s bones when all this was over. “Come now, talk to me.”
The dead king’s body struggled against the spells I wove around him and his visage was a nightmare of ire. “No more! No more! Release me!”
“Ah, but I DO want to let you rest in peace. I really do. You just need to help me help you.” I soothed. “Just tell me one more thing and I will let you go. I promise.”
“I know not what you seek.” Fredrik’s eyes seethed and he again tried to raise his sword against me.
As usual, I barred him from the action. “Do not lie to me, foul creature. And don’t try to impale me with your powerless mortal pike!” My demeanor changed again.
Quickly then, did I put my last effort into one final attempt to pull out the knowledge I knew was inside this Drrukka. It cost me almost the whole of my remaining lifeforce as I slurried out the black magic of a Spiderweb Spell to engulf Fredrik with. Then, knowing that Time — both with the Drrukka’s spirit on the slab before me and even now my own here on Terra — was ticking against me, I asked, “We both know that you know exactly of what I speak, Fredrik Vendal. Therefore I say again – tell me about the dagger that Hef Fastuz created when he made The Ghast! Tell me now or remain in agony here with me forever!” And to add weight to my words, I let spill out even more black magic over my hostage, leaving me completely depleted of the last remnants of my <hellfire> — and thus now as vulnerable to extinction as any mortal of your world. (12)
“Aaacch!” screeched the Drrukkka, clutching as his mangled throat. “I do not have it! Aaarrrg! Release me! Release me, fiend!” The king’s armor shook while his body began to bloat beneath it and even the walls of the cavern began to rattle as Fredrik’s soul fought back against me, struggling to return to the netherworld. “Grrrerg! Aaaach! Nooooooo! Let me goooo! I do not have… The Grim!!”
And with that the bones of Fredrik Vendal exploded! His remains burst, the shrapnel flying in all directions — it happened so fast that I had to take cover below the altar to avoid getting hit.
That momentary lapse was all Fredrik’s spirit need to escape my control and return at last to Kawkawzuz!
I knew the communal was over even before I rose — for Silence was my only companion now. Surveying the scene inside The Necronomicon, I could no longer hold back exhaustion from getting the best of me, Alas, I don’t have the heart to even deal with this mess now.
I could feel the vulnerability of my present condition– for without <hellfire> I knew I was susceptible to death via any weapon – even that wielded by a common mortal. As a result, there was no question but that I needed to return to Illusia (immediately!) and beg Baal-Zebub for more lifeforce – it wasn’t going to be pretty and I knew the Evil One would make me suffer for the unexpected visit. Yet I had to choice – I had to go…Now!
And yet, in spite of all of this, I couldn’t have been more pleased!
Even as I walked down the lonely passageways towards The Stairway of Infinity, already I was weaving a twisted lie to pin the blame on Gwar. And while the ruse wasn’t all that well crafted, I honestly didn’t care.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid of Lucifer (or whatever his name was)!
In fact, I actually picked up the hems of my robes and moved faster towards The Stairway – wanting to get my punishment over with as fast as possible so I could return back to your world.
When at last I reached The Stairway and got ready to descend into hell, I had but one thought, one word, on my mind…
- I could waste a millennia in daydreaming and not think twice, while you fret over losing an hour in traffic. Yet just because I could waste time doesn’t mean I did, and just because you’d shouldn’t squander it doesn’t mean you didn’t. That’s yet another difference between you and I – in spite of its near limitless supply for me, I recognized the value of Time and thus didn’t waste it. Sadly, you people never did understand Time’s preciousness and I’ve watched you waste it every day…to your great detriment.
- Giving me a bit of comfort in what in truth was an emotionally exhausting environment.
- You thought Satan Worshippers had the market cornered on creepy? Think again.
- Recall that I told you that so long as I had a fully intact skull and at least one rib bone, making a connection to the spirit world was relatively easy for me. In this case, I lacked a complete skull and had not a single rib – thus the reason why these remains were classified as unknown and saved for later.
- Rhokkium was a rather unique metallic gem that the Drrukka discovered in the depths of the Rhokki Mountains around 3240 BC. It was the strongest material ever unearthed on your world and the Drrukka’s weaponsmiths quickly used it to give their warriors an advantage in battle. Check that, because rhokkium was a precious commodity, only the upper echelon of Drrukka society ever carried arms made with this gemrock. Score another for the 1%-er’s, eh?
- I took that as a good sign. First off, nobody said it would be easy, right? More importantly though, I knew that the more the spirit of the Drrukka rebelled, the more my spells were working, and the closer I was to being able to commune with him.
- Of course it’s also possible that I may have failed in properly classifying the bones during my efforts to sort through things back in The Morgue. Yes, technically that is possible. However a god rarely takes the blame so we’re going to stick with the error falling on the part of my slaves instead!
- Thus once again Azazel is a winner. Hmm, jealous much?
- Kawkawzuz was the Drrukka’s name for the made up location of their afterlife – a dreamworld where they believed they would be able to fight for all eternity beside their god Rhokkii. It’s a pure sham – but then again, aren’t all the afterlife myths?
- OK, that may have been a bit of a stretch, but a god can dream, can’t he?
- Let that be a lesson for you, kids – don’t ever give up on your dreams!
- Mortality. It’s a scary proposition. For the life of me, I don’t know how you live with that fear every day.
- Thankfully none of my enemies knew of my present condition and had little chance of penetrating the stronghold of The Cauldron even if they did so, in truth, I wasn’t in much danger. But that didn’t stop me from worrying about it!