Location: Nektar’s Cauldron
Timeline: Sixth Age of Substance, 44th Year,Winter
I don’t wanna wait in vain for your love…I don’t wanna wait in vain for your love…
I love singing to myself when I’m reminiscing, don’t you?
Ah, The Grim. For so long I have waited for you, my precious. Soon you will be mine. (1)
I committed to tell you how I acquired The Grim (2), so I might as well complete that tale.
Recall that my death communal with Kon-Herr Drrukka Fredrik Vendal depleted me of my <hellfire> lifeforce. As a result, I had to return to Illusia off-cycle. (3) Now you may be wondering – how was I able to keep the secret of The Grim from my master Lucifer during the century I was forced to remain with him while I groveled for more <hellfire>?
Honestly I don’t know.
Perhaps Baal-Zebub did learn about the magic dagger from me during the many torture sessions he made me endure. Given his ability to freely steal anything he desired from me while I was begging at his feet, I wouldn’t be surprised if my master had gleaned some inkling about The Grim’s existence from me. I like to hope that he didn’t, but then again, if he did, ol’ BZ never let me know that he knew that I knew that he might know. Thus, I really didn’t know IF he knew. 🙂
Be that as it may, when I did return from Illusia (4), I was overjoyed. I quickly cleaned up the mess that still remained in The Necronomicon — sadly a century of neglect hadn’t help things — yet you may be surprised to learn that I did not fulfill my earlier vow to defile the remains of Fredrik Vendal. Instead I glorified them – giving the helpful Kon-Herr’s bones a place of honor as part of my throne in The Gallery of Unholy Death (5). I couldn’t help but be grateful for the gift of knowledge that Fredrik has blessed me with – to finally be able to put a name to the concept that had frustrated me for so long, why it promised to make my search for The Grim that much easier.
Or so I thought.
Giddy with excitement, I quickly returned to my work in The Necronomicom. At first I went back and talked with some of the higher ranking Drrukka I’d talked with previously – hoping that, now that I knew The Grim by name, I’d have more success in my death communals.
A year spent on this task brought me nothing but frustration; yet I refused to give up.
Next I tried going back to the Unknown Soldiers – after all that’s how I found Fredrik Vendal. The work was difficult and I spent a quarter century in the endeavor – with nothing to show for it. To begin with most of the remains were so lacking that I couldn’t even communicate with them, and any that I was able to bring back from the dead turned out to be naught but the most common of warriors and these low-on-the-food-chain scrubs knew little about The Ghast and nothing about The Grim.
In the end, after working my way through all 102,511 sets of Drrukka bones from The Morgue, (over the course of three centuries mind you!), I was no closer to finding the Grim than when I started – and knowings its true name only made my forsaken quest all the more frustrating.
I need a different plan, I sighed, sitting on the bed in my chambers, my shaking hands barely able to lift a glass of Red to my mouth without spilling it (6). More importantly, I need more souls!
Taking a break from my experiments, I filled the void by taking out my frustrations on the people of Kra and Gor. What followed was a period of history worse than any Dark Age you might know about — for my people suffered horrors beyond imagination. In fact, I ingested more souls in a ten year period than I’d ever done in the past and sometimes, when I was feeling especially down, I comforted myself by harvesting the souls of an entire village in a single night.
Yet still, I languished.
It wasn’t until I turned my attentions back to my genetic experiments that I made a breakthrough of sorts.
I spent the next two decades in my Life Labs, trying to find a way to cross a snake with a human.
The process of marrying the two creatures wasn’t hard, but what took me so long was trying to create a union that had certain desired characteristics. I wasn’t looking for some half-breed crossover that had the appearance of both man and snake – what’s the point in that freakshow? (7) Instead I desired something more subtle – a humanoid changeling who could shapeshift as needed between a man and viper. I also wanted them to retain their poisonous retractable fangs in all forms. (8) And most importantly of all, I wanted these creatures to be sly. (9)
Do you see the benefits of such a shapeshifter? Not only did those abilities give this new race of creatures more options for defending themselves depending on the situation, but more importantly they could fulfill a much needed function for me – they could become my spies! (10)
When I finally satisfied myself with the results of my work, I called these new people The Viperz.
With each Viperz I created, I painstakingly took the time to clean out their memory banks, but not their intelligence — starting every new changeling with a blank slate from a memory standpoint allowed me to do two things:
- Wherever I sent them, the Viperz quickly become the product of that environment –filling their mind with knowledge of that particular locale. When the spy returned to me, I could then“milk” the reconnaissance out of them – thereby giving me the intelligence I needed, while at the same time removing the burden of this knowledge from the Viperz himself, and thus leaving the snakeman with a clean palate once again! (11)
- Even more importantly, I was able to warp the human portion of the creature, specifically the portion of the mind that housed A’H’s Giftcurse of Free Will, and instead install a new template – namely that I, Death, was The One True God and there was none other. (12)
At first, my Viperz seemed too good to be true. Quickly bringing me back valuable insights from throughout TerrVerde (13). And as long as the Viperz’ mind was milked on a regular basis (prior to it becoming too full with knowledge of other things), the creature seemed to be the ideal spy for me.
There was however one known risk (acceptable because of its initially perceived improbability): I feared that, should a snakeman be milked by another godling and be given a clean slate by that immortal, then that Viperz could theoretically be duped into believing that another besides me was the real god and might then become their pawn.
At first I didn’t think there was much to worry about, but then I remembered something that gave me a bit of trepidation: after The War of the Ghast ended, I’d given Inanna a piece of magic in exchange for her stealing The Ghast from Gwar and secretly giving it to me.
The name of that spell was The Venom of the Viperz!
Do you see how that could be a problem?
How could I have let that happen?
Well, 500 years ago I thought my gift to The Goddess of Lust was naught but insignificant magic – it was a spell I never thought I would use and couldn’t see how Inanna (or any other godling) could do much with it (14). Since it was the only reward Inanna asked for in exchange for securing The Ghast with no questions asked, it seemed like a small price to pay for so large a prize.
But alas, The Ghast was now lost to Baal-Zebub, and with The Venom of the Viperz in Inanna’s arsenal, I feared my snakemen would be extra vulnerable to The Goddess of Lust’s charms – for no mortal creature (human, snake, or other) could resist Inanna’s soul-sucking sex magic to begin with, and with The Venom spell on top of that, my Viperz stood no chance against her.
Knowing this, my plan was to never send a Viperz anywhere near Inanna – since she’d set up shop down in Ramos (15), I gave explicit instructions to my spies not to go ‘south of the border’ so to speak – specifically telling them never to cross the the southern tip of the Rhokii Mountains or enter the wilds of Loco Land.
In the beginning, these precautions worked so I sent my Viperz throughout TerrVerde’s northern portion – to Gor, Kra, Kagor, The Stax, Pennal, Mersia, The Northern Wastes, and even faraway Orkney. I even sent some to other continents (16).
All of them had but one mission – to gather knowledge about a magical dagger called The Grim.
Since each Viperz was individually created by me (17), it took me time to build up enough spies to create a decent intelligence network. Additionally, I had to spend time milking those who returned. Thus I was kept myself pretty busy for a time or two. (18)
I spent the next 5 years living in anticipation of the next Viperz return. Not every Viperz brought back useful information – in fact most of the news they brought was worthless. Sure there were a few I remembered — Nissus, Memnon, and even Ankisas — each of them learned a snippet about a dagger that might possibly be The Grim, yet on further investigation nothing panned out. I also made the decision to sacrifice a lot of my Viperz in The Life Labs in order to make sure they were telling me the whole truth – to no avail – and even follow-up sessions with their spirits in The Necronomicon provided me with nothing more of significance.
And then came the year 461 (19) — that’s when a Viperz named Sissifuss returned to The Cauldron. Sissifuss hadn’t simply unearthed a minor bit of information about any old dagger. Instead Sissifuss gave me a piece of intelligence that I can only described as ‘the head, the tale,and the whole damn thing!’ (20)
For Sissifuss confirmed that not only was The Grim real, but that he knew who had it — naming the Kon-Herr Drokka of The Akka Mountains as the current possessor of The Grim.
To say I was overjoyed would be an understatement!
When I sacrificed Sissifuss’s body it was a solemn occasion indeed (21). And to honor the loyal spy even more, I added one of his ribs to my throne too – placing it near Fredrik Vendal’s as a form of homage.
Meanwhile, things were flowing fast and furious for me — not only did I now know where The Grim was, but while draining Sissifuss’s lifeforce in The Life Labs, the Viperz gave me yet another gift – the inspiration for my next great plan!
I will create a plague and use it to destroy the Drrukka of Akka. I savored the idea, knowing full well it was a winner. With my Vizigobs gone, I feared that it would be nigh impossible to try to send an army of Derkka all the way to Akka (22). I needed a quieter plan – and that’s where the idea for a plague was perfect. Why it’s a strategy so simple, that even a lone Viperz can accomplish it!
The idea was in fact so easy to understand that I think even you will see its beauty — all that was required was for my spy to journey to Akka, release the plague into the Drrukka’s mountain stronghold, and then simply wait for the virus to do its work. In the close-confines of Akka’s underground society, I was sure that my super contagious, highly fatal virus would easily wipe out the unsuspecting citizens of Akka. With everybody dead, my spy could then traipse into the mountain passageways and retrieve The Grim without resistance.
Azazel, you sly dog! I couldn’t help but smile – the ancient bones of my mandible cracking a bit in the process.
I was so inspired that, in just a few months, I’d created, tested, and manufactured the deadly virus. I’d also created a new Viperz – specifically for this mission. The changeling’s name was Pesties (23) and I not only made certain that he was immune to the virus, but I also equipped him with antibodies from his blood that he could use to treat himself if somehow he did feel the affects of the plague (24).
Confident Pesties would succeed, I lauded him with praise – even accompanying him by foot to the very edges of The Cauldron’s surrounding land.
“When you return, my son, you’ll be given a hero’s welcome.” I patted the Viperz on the back as we walked through the scruff of the dreary landscape just before sunrise on the day of his departure. “You need only name your reward, and I’ll have it waiting for you.”
“Wine, women, and song.” Pesties was quick to reply. “And more women.”
“Ha, you shall have all that and more, good sir.” I laughed along with the spy – all the while knowing that I had no intentions of fulfilling any of these promises. Then, getting serious, I asked, “You understand your mission? There can be no mistakes. You must perform every task I’ve assigned to the letter of the instructions.”
“I am aware.” The shapeshifter replied, adjusting his packs. “I won’t let you down. The Grim will be yours before the year is out.”
“Excellent.” I smiled. “Excellent.”
The sands of time dripped slowly for me as I waited for Pesties to return.
One month went by.
Granted, I knew that Pesties’ journey wasn’t going to be fast. In the best case, I estimated that it would take him four to six months to reach Akka (depending on weather conditions), and another month or two for him to deliver the plague and wait for it to destroy Akka. The amount of time of time it would take him actually find The Grim inside Akka was a wild card (it’s not like the Drrukka were going to have a sign that says “Grim Here!”) and then there was still the return journey – another four to six months.
Yes I knew all that of that. But it didn’t make it any easier for me to do the actual waiting!
After thirteen months, I got a queer feeling in my bones – something was stirring in the Winds of Fate.
Has Pesties returned? I bolted up from my throne, grabbing my robes and descending from the dais. “You there!” I called to one of my servants, “Ready the L–“
That’s when it hit me – I was being summoned to Illusia!
“No! Not now!” I screamed, trying to run to my chambers. “It can’t be. I’m so close. I can’t go now!”
But the pull of Baal-Zebub’s summons only grew stronger – and with a nearly full supply of <hellfire> I knew that if I was being called back to hell off-cycle it wasn’t going to be good.
The hate I felt for Lucifer was worse than ever and it roiled my insides so much that scores of the souls in my horde were destroyed by it.
Yet there was nothing I could do. I had to go to return to Illusia…immediately.
In a rush, I gave some haphazard instructions to the captain of my guard – advising him that when Pesties eventually returned the captain was to murder the Viperz on sight (25) and then take Pesties body and any possessions he was carrying (which hopefully included The Grim!) and put everything into Room 101 of The Life Labs – the most isolated of all my special cells. The captain and his guards were to secure that cell in such a way that nobody, NOBODY, was to have any access to it until I returned. I put the fear of god (ME!) into my captain and threatened him so much that I knew he’d follow my instructions — for he didn’t want to be around when I returned if he failed me.
That was all I could do in the limited time that I had – for Lucifer’s allure was becoming so insistent as to be painful.
After that I raced to The Stairway and threw myself into The Abyss – falling through Infinity down to Illusia. Hoping all the way that The Grim would be waiting for me when I finally returned.
“And now, here I am.” I sighed, looking into the deep red of the swirls inside my chalice, trying to be patient as I waited for my slaves to bring Pesties before me, with me prize. (26)
At last I could take it no more. “AAARGH! Where in Haaz is he?” And I threw my glass to the ground in disgust as I rose from my throne.
Yet nought but silence filled The Gallery.
“Fool!” My true voice spat out, accusing myself. “Why send an imbesol to do your work?!”
“But I thought-“ another voice from within me began. Only to be cut off.
“You thought nothing!” My true voice replied. “Come. Let us go to The Labs to claim The Grim for ourselves!”
And with that, I stormed the hallways of The Cauldron, quickly descending to The Life Labs, making my way down to my destiny – The Grim.
The best laid plans… I thought, half-amused, half-frustrated, as I stood outside The Life Labs, after having checked Room 100…and all the rest.
There was no sign of Pesties. There was no sign of The Grim. There was no indication that either of them had been here. Not now. Or ever in the past.
What in Haaz happened? I wondered.
To say that my subjects felt my wrath would be an understatement. I rampaged my way through The Cauldron, questioning (and killing) anyone I came across to see what they could tell me about the missing Viperz. To no avail.
Even when I tried to reach out to Pesties via the etherworld, I was unable to reach my spy.
Did he die of the plague after all? I wondered, exhausted beyond compare. Did he ever make it to Akka at all? Aarch! I am not in the mood for riddles. I’m too old for this!
Believe it or not I didn’t let my anger get the best of me any more. Instead I spent a week in pensive thought and came to some conclusions.
- Baal-Zebub’s untimely summons ruined my plans. Without me here to oversee matters, there were simply too many things can could (and probably did go wrong).
- The original plan was still a good one – perhaps too good, meaning that the most obvious thing is that Pesties had perished in the plague too.
I therefore concluded that my best and fastest way to acquire The Grim was to send another Viperz out to follow in Pesties footsteps and determine what happened. That spy was named Aspus – yet, as a precaution, I did not tell him about The Grim — instead he was merely find Pesties and bring back whatever knowledge about him he could uncover. In addition, Aspus tasked with reporting back the state of affairs within the kingdom of Akka — specifically, Aspus was to find out if was there any recorded history of sickness or disease in their records from a century past.
After that, there was nought I could do but wait…again.
Wait and wonder.
And so, once more I parked myself on the throne of bones in the Gallery of Unholy Death – waiting for Life to give me the answers I deserved!
- You’re wondering – how many chapters are going to start with me waiting for The Grim? First off, it’s not for you to question a god. Secondly, The Grim is a BIG deal – sorry if you don’t realize that yet, but then again I didn’t expect that your pea-brain would understand any of this and remember I wouldn’t even be telling you this story if A’H hadn’t forced me to. That said, I will admit, that as I read back through my journals now, I’ wondering the same thing! Thankfully, this is the chapter that starts this way!
- As you’ll soon see my use of the word ‘acquired’ in reference to The Grim was a bit premature.
- If you’re keeping track of the timeline, that was in the 301st year of the Fifth Age of Substance (approximately 2743 BC).
- Fifth Age 401st year (approx. 2643 BC)
- Perhaps I was just mellowing out in my old age.
- What’s that? You wanna know how can I drink wine when I’m naught but a skeleton man? Oh you sad little creature – don’t think you can begin to understand the existence of a god. How my anatomy works is beyond your understanding. Suffice it to say, I was able to enjoy more wine in my time than any whose ever set foot upon your world.
- Although I will admit that the results of my early experiments were a bit comical – and the Pits of my Cauldron were quickly filled with such castoffs.
- Why the ever-present fangs? Do I really have to explain this one? Fangs are cool! I mean who wouldn’t like to have a pair of retractable fangs that drip poison on command? I often thought of outfitting myself with such a pair, but alas I never made time for it.
- In every sense of that word.
- Prior to this, I never realized the burden I was forcing on myself to be responsible for trying to keep tabs on everybody on Terra all by myself. My spies promised to take a bit of that work off my plate. Sure I was a bit concerned about delegating such an important task, but the potential freedom was too much to pass up.
- A pretty neat trick, huh?
- As you can imagine that didn’t go over well with A’H. When it came time for me to answer for my crimes, I paid a dreadful price – part of which includes the actions related to my penance involving telling you these stories.
- Although none of the news was all that earth shattering, it kept my mind occupied away from my problems, and I found myself eagerly looking forward to whatever updates my spies could share with me about the places they’d been. I liken this to the way you people are constantly on social media nowadays. Hmm, I wonder if that makes me the first social media addict?
- A bit of an oversight, huh? As they say, poor planning leads to problems – a lesson I’d eventually learn the hard way.
- The modern day Mexican peninsula.
- Although none of those spies returned.
- Viperz could not be cloned and they were infertile so could not reproduce.
- As an interesting side note – it was during this time that a large portion of my Vizigobs rebelled against my rule and secretly escaped from The Cauldron. Led by a dynamic rebel named Marduk, the Vizigobs set up a commune society in The Northern Wastes – worshiping The Marduk as a god-on-earth who provided for their every needs and protected them from outside forces. I didn’t have time to bother with them so I let them play house for awhile – but don’t worry, they’d suffer my wrath later.
- 461st Year of the Fifth Age of Substance (approx 2581 BC)
- Are you surprised as how I ‘rewarded’ Sissifuss? First off, remember that my loyal creatures live but to serve me – whatever that service may require. Secondly, a simple milking of the spy’s reconnaissance was too risky in this case — I had no choice but to sift through ALL of Sissifuss in the Life Labs, for it was the only way to ensure I was getting everything out of the snakeman – even things he didn’t know he knew. As it turned out, Sissifuss really had told me everything so his destruction was… regrettable. And yet, I came away from the labs satisfied – after all, it’s better to know for sure than always be wondering, right?
- Yes I could have tried to use my made up god persona Baal to goad the Derrka into making the journey, but the dangers of a journey their the Rhokki Mountains (controlled by their hated rivals The Drrukka) or via the extreme cold climes of The Northern Wastes (which the rebellious Vizigobs now held) was likely to devastate the Derk army before it ever reached the far Northeastern corner of TerrVerde where Akka was located. It’s likely that even if the Derks did reach Akka, the superior Drrukka forces there would have easily defeated them. In addition, I didn’t want to a major military campaign drawing attention to my plans – the last thing I wanted was for Gwar or Inanna to come snooping around!
- Are things finally starting to come together for you?
- I needed to make sure this plan worked so I war gamed every scenario, trying up all the loose ends. Or so I thought.
- Pesties was after all the carrier of a deadly plague – and I didn’t want that virus killing off the entire population of my servants too.
- Patience – it’s over rated. I’d been stuck in Illusia for 103 years, having to endure Baal-Zebub’s complaints that my efforts to release him were “less than satisfactory” and threatening to allow a mortal to destroy me with Dagaal if I didn’t “speed things up.” That was Lucifer’s entire reason for calling me to Illusia – to whine! And I had to listen to 103 years of that crap, so don’t talk to me about patience!