m CHAPTER ONE
AN ELUSIVE DARKNESS
He awoke covered in sweat from the sweltering heat, it was hot, he could barely draw in a breath. Where am I… How did I get here? He thought. His throat was so dry he couldn’t even swallow. The rotted smells that filled his nose caused him to choke and gag. He could hear screams of pain like no others he had ever heard. Some sounded like men though others like monstrous beasts in complete pain. It was dark, too dark to see anything but shadows about him. He tried to move; his body hurt with every attempt. His armor clanked in his efforts. Why am I dressed in this armor? He wondered. A small creature scampered across his leg. It made him jerk back in surprise causing him more pain. More screams filled the air. He cringed at the sounds. His mind raced all about, yet he could not come up with any answers. His heart pounded so hard he could hear it. Two upright beasts approached, one held a small torch. The flicker of light was almost soothing until it came close enough to reveal the demons that carried it. They walked like a man though they were far too large. The smell of these foul creatures flooded his nostrils, causing him to gag once more. The beasts opened the cell across from his, with an eerie squeak of rusted metal. The man in the cell began to beg.
“No please. NOOOOO!” He scampered as far back in his cell as he could… Though his efforts did him no good. The larger beast grabbed him by the hair of the head and lifted him high into the air with one hand.
“AAAAAAAHHHH!” the prisoner screamed. “No! No! Stop please!”
The smaller of the demons held the torch up to the struggling man. “You know what the penalty for stealing is,” He said to the prisoner, in a crude, rough voice.
“No! I didn’t take the bread! It wasn’t me!” The prisoner’s screams fell on deaf ears.
The smaller beast grabbed the prisoner’s arm and held it out in front of the larger one’s face. The large beast opened his oversized mouth revealing rotten black teeth, with the ruminates of some fangs showing. The prisoner tried to struggle, yet could do little more than squirm a bit, the whole time he screamed in fear. The creature that held him up by the hair chomped down upon his arm and tore it loose halfway up the forearm. As the prisoner screamed, the beast chewed his meal with a look of satisfaction, and blood dripped from his face. The torch bearer held the flames up to the fresh wound and burned it to keep him from bleeding out. Blood dripped upon the flames causing a sizzling sound. The prisoner passed out from the sheer pain. The monster then tossed his limp body back to the floor.
“If he lives, send him to the mines,” grunted the smaller.
The beasts made their way over to the armored prisoner’s cell giving him a good look at their disfigured faces. He too cowered to the back of his cell as if it would help.
The larger guard smiled an evil smile at him. The smaller one looked him dead in the eyes. “Hope you enjoy your stay. We shall return soon enough for you.” The demon chuckled as they turned and left him to his racing mind and the darkness…
Deep in the center of the earth the evil lord’s throne room lay hidden. He sat and basked in the ambiance of the dark crystal, known as the crystal of death, upon a throne made of the bones of elves, wizards, fairies, and topped with a tremendous horned dragon skull. His blacker than night, tattered cape moved all about him, as if it were alive soaking up what little light there was. Even when he was at rest, which was seldom, his cape was always reaching, feeling, looking for life to drain. He amplified his powers by consuming the souls of sentient beings. He no longer resembled a man, for ages of evil transformed him into the bile creature he was today. His face, not visible under his dark dragon horned helmet. His hands looked as if they had been dead for many years. His fingernails long, cracked, and sharp clawed at the arms of his throne, digging deep into the armrests and leaving grooves. To bask in the light of the crystal would kill a man in mere minutes, yet he was no man. Rather a wretched, blackened soul, filled with hate and despair. His body had been grotesquely transformed from his magical experiments to gain power. Large and powerful was his stature indeed. His name had been forgotten many thousands of years before after all thought him to be vanquished. None who served him now had ever known his name, for this was not the first time he tried to conquer the world.
The pain he once endured while absorbing the dark powers of the crystal now brought him great pleasure. He had become so heinous he no longer knew the feeling of pain at all. His hands squeezed the throne arms as he squirmed in his seat and grunted in pleasure. Just the right amount of exposure to the dark crystal would turn any being or beast into a wicked servant; this evil master had grown so abject over his long life he could now endure a long bask in its terrible power as no other could. This basking, at first, was unimaginable to take, but as time went on his dark powers grew…. and his mind twisted.
The armored prisoner looked up at the sound of a noise. Sweat filled his eyes and blurred his vision though he could make out the light headed his way. He shuffled himself to the corner of the cell, his mind racing in all directions. The two beasts came once again to his cell. They stood in front of him smiling if you could call it a smile. Their stench was overpowering the already rotten smells of the prison. The smaller guard turned the key slowly, and with a clanking, the lock tumbled open. The eerie squeaking of the cell door opening caused the imprisoned man to scramble in fear. His back lay against the wall, yet his feet kept trying to push himself away from the monstrous guard coming at him.
“No! Please! I have done nothing to deserve this! Who are you?” He screamed.
The larger of the guards smiled and grabbed him by the hair and began to drag him from his cell. The whole while he kicked and screamed. The smaller guard followed closely behind them.
“The master awaits you…. You shall soon see his true powers.” Said the smaller guard with a hideous smile.
The prisoner, a fresh souled man, was being drug into the dark lord’s chambers to serve as a meal for his terribleness. The evil being finished his absorption of dark power, then sent the crystal back to the concealment of its chamber. The two dark, gruesome guards, dragged the kicking and screaming man to his ultimate demise. He liked it when they resisted and fought, besides the pleasure it brought him, this usually meant their souls were stronger, and they would feed his demonic soul superiorly.
“Why am I here? I have done nothing!” screamed the desperate, exquisitely armored man as he was drug before the evil master.
The two guards tossed the large man with ease to the bottom steps of their master’s throne. His armor clanked, and he groaned in pain as he landed flat on his chest.
The evil master slowly rose to his full height. His dragon horn helmet stood nine feet from the ground atop his gnarled, disfigured head. It now covered his face, yet left visible his red eyes that glowed brightly behind it. His tattered black cape reached all around him, for it could sense its meal was close.
To the frightened man, the smell of rotten flesh filled his nostrils and turned his stomach. He looked up at the gruesome figure before him and trembled. Urine ran between his thighs and formed a puddle beneath him.
Slowly, the dark lord descended the bone made steps, where he stopped just above the cowering man. The weight of his step ground his armored boots against the bone; this resonated an eerie sound mixed with the clanks from his full body armor.
“Who…Who are you? W, w, what do you want?” the man stuttered, and repeated one last time, in a desperate voice that trembled and broke. Just being in the evil lord’s presence had already begun to draw the life from him. He now writhed in pain upon the ground, like a worm in the hot summer sunlight as the dark lord spoke.
“I WANT NOTHING… BUT YOUR SOUL!” came a voice so demonic and terrible it caused the poor man horrific pain.
The voice was like a horse, scratchy, whisper, yet felt like the whisper of a underworld demon. Not loud, yet overwhelmingly powerful. His screams of pain filled the evil master’s dimly lit, roughly carved chambers. For a moment, the tortured man thought he caught a glimpse of a rotted smile flash under his dark and mysterious helmet. The dark lord raised his staff and magically stripped the king of his armor, the pieces sailing across the room filled the air with clanks and crashes.
Rot filled the dying man’s nostrils, he became overwhelmed and vomited where he lay.
The terrible, dark cape began to entwine all around the terrified man; he began to scream again with a pain none could imagine. The cape lifted him into the air directly in front of the dark lord. “YOUR SCREAMS ARE NOT BEFITTING FOR A KING SUCH AS YOU.”
His screams were that of a dying man. Everywhere the cape touched the man it burned and sizzled.
The evil master uncovered his rotted head and looked deeply into his meal’s eyes, “YOUR SOUL IS NOW MINE GREAT KING.” came the frightful, overpowering whisper once more.
Even then, when he had stretched to the limits of pain and thought he could endure no more, the voice still yet caused him more agony.
The rotted, mutilated, dead face opened its mouth, and with a fiery light began to suck the soul from the king. Ghastly to watch if one ever did, and lived to tell the tale. The bright luminescence of the good king’s soul began to suck from his every cell. As his soul was being extracted, he learned the true meaning of pain and suffering just before his death.
As the beautiful light of his soul was entering the evil lord he grew less gruesome, putrid, and vile. His body could not hold all of his dark powers without rotting away; he had to take in fresh souls regularly to keep his mortal body.
The king’s body looked to be decayed and rotted for a month when the evil lord finished with his soul. He held up his staff made of dragon leg bone and topped with a small, uncarved piece of the dark crystal that set on a tripod of dragon claws. He magically lifted the rotted corpse, then flung it across the room among the many other victims’ bodies and bones. Once it landed, his nasty pets came forth to dine on its remaining rotted flesh. Snapping and ripping sounds filled the air, along with some hisses and growls. The pets seemed to… how could this be? His pets were… young dragons.
The dark master stroked his massive dragon skull atop his throne. “None have yet to match your fight; your soul fed me for many years…. It is time, I think, to feed on your kin.” He laughed menacingly, as he petted the skull some more. “Although, your elven and witch friends make an excellent meal in themselves… Perhaps, it is time to feed on them as well.” He now stroked an elven skull that bore a magnificent crown.