Since you have been overwhelmed and inundated with the protagonists that wander the Realm of Ashenclaw and the continent of Wothlondia, I thought it might be...nice?...to show you the dark side for those of you who enjoy the villains! Here is a brief excerpt from Covenant of the Faceless Knights, in which the main baddies are introduced. I hope you enjoy this one as the end of the story indicates just how evil they are!
Zabalas sat upon his intricate throne within the Bastion of Skulls, which was simply how his many servants referred to his castle in its newest and most glorious form. Not only were there skulls of every conceivable race and creature adorning the walls and floors within the castle, but the entire exterior of it had somehow been built using skulls and not stone.
He had reflected on how he took his rightful place as leader of his many minions and how he had acquired powerful associates with much in common. He thought about his exchange with the few tribes of goblinoids, convincing them that they had been lying dormant for far too long and that they should claim their rightful place as rulers of Wothlondia.
He was now trying to show the potent forces that lay below the surface to aid in the great cause, too. He was in league with an influential and extremely powerful force that desired as many allies as possible.
To Zabalas’ right stood a sickening creature. It was alive and yet, it wasn’t. It was undead. The creature was a mockery of its once human life and stood drooling and staring out as Zabalas spoke. It listened intently but never uttered a word as Zabalas continued to share his thoughts.
In walked a tall female with long white hair and very pale, but incredibly beautiful skin that seemed quite a disparity to her dark clothing. She had a set of rather large amber eyes that seemed to display a not-so-subtle wickedness. She wore a deep black outfit with some red accents that included a leather chest guard. The upper torso had a large oval shape of fabric cut out purposely in the center to bluntly show a large portion of her cleavage.
She wore a set of gloves and boots that ended high up on the arm and leg respectively and a loincloth that was a series of leather strips in layers dangling to her mid-thigh. Upon her shapely hips was a pair of loose-hanging belts. The hilt of a sword protruded from a scabbard hanging on her left hip and a scourge, with its many thongs about its handle hung low on her right.
She halted her advance and looked into a small mirror which she held out, her amber eyes gazing back at her reflection. She was wickedly beautiful.
She was a succubus, a race of half-breed demons, commonly referred to as cambions. The cambions are the offspring of the pure descendants of the Demon Queen, called Aspects. The succubi made their home within the subterrane, which was obvious to any who knew their history, but most had not. The surface folk know that just before the reign of Ashenclaw, they faced a force that was secretly influencing their people into deeds of unparalleled treachery. The humans and elves wisely deduced that the succubi, who appeared as beautiful visions to their victims, were the source. The elves and humans eventually found them out and forced her succubi race deep into the bowels of the earth.
The succubi, however, regrouped during their time out of the sun, where they found refuge in those dark caverns. They embraced their new home and began plotting for the time when man would be made aware of their indomitable presence once more.
There was much revenge for her Demon Queen to feast upon in the very near future, she thought as she continued into the throne room, replacing the tiny mirror in her belt pouch.
“It is good to have you back, my dearest Phaera,” Zabalas said. His voice sounded inhuman coming from behind his devilishly styled black helmet, long horns jutting out from its sides.
The albino cambion was smiling and seemed not at all threatened by the imposing dark warlord seated in the throne before her, or of the undead creature that stood hunched beside it.
Zabalas removed his helmet as the woman approached the throne, revealing a very handsome, albeit pale face, with long dark hair and the blackest eyes she had ever seen on a man. He sat and stroked his smooth chin and grinned at her, conveying an almost arrogant visage. She smiled in response and spoke.
“Plans are proceeding as you requested and we are meeting with my brood in a few eves, “she calmly replied, moving even closer to him to stare into his cold eyes.
“I am confident that my brood will act in accordance with us, as will perhaps more than a few others of my kin,” the succubus finished, leaning in even closer with her lavender-colored lips and teasing him with the possibility of a kiss. She was a very attractive woman for any race, be it succubi or otherwise.
“The Daughters of Asmodai will certainly be interested in what you have to say, but I cannot speak for any of the other broods, even though my mother is regarded widely as the heiress of the entire enclave,” Phaera continued, her lavender lips almost touching his.
“I tolerate you because of your connections,” he warned as he unceremoniously pushed her back an arm’s length away. “Your abilities have no effect on me, Phaera, remember that,” Zabalas continued as he reminded her once more that he was in control now and always. Her pheromones had no effect on him and he made sure to remind her every so often.
“I have plans that the gods will lament,” Zabalas continued, completely missing a frustrated look on the face of the succubus. “If you plan on fitting into them, I suggest you remember your place,” he continued threatening in a low and even-tempered voice, beginning to smile viciously once more.
“Tell me again of the doppelganger’s success,” Zabalas asked, clearly wanting the satisfaction of hearing the tale once more.
“I alread, ,” Phaera began and then caught the look upon Zabalas’ face and carefully rephrased her answer.
“We managed to infiltrate Oakhaven as you instructed, using my abilities and those of the djinni. No one suspected,” she explained. “We managed to find an apprentice quite easily and Solagh managed to gain his form and memories. We were close to being uncovered a few times, but managed to circumvent the fool priests. We left Solagh to his measures and returned here,” she finished.
“Yes, Solagh needed some time to do his part,” Zabalas added. “The magic of his amulet needed some time to work, after all.”
Phaera did not know what that amulet did exactly, but she knew he could simulate the effects of their pheromones.
Again, the door to his throne room opened, pulling Phaera from her thoughts and preventing Zabalas from adding anything else to the conversation. In walked a male dwarf. At least he looked like a dwarf at first, until one could make out the coloration of his face, which was very pale.
He was a slagfell dwarf, which was how all others referred to his kin. Their greed was legendary and surpassed even those of the dwarves, who hold gems in very high regard. They were once themselves a clan of dwarves, whose greed drove them ever further into the subterrane to unearth more and more treasures.
This particular slagfell dwarf was covered in head to toe with gray-colored, plated armor. He stood approximately four feet in height and his head was bald. On that head were strange brandings, specifically on his forehead and the sides of his neck. He wore a long gray beard that was braided into sections that hung next to one another.
“Megnus, we are busy,” teased the succubus as the slagfell strode closer to them.
“I have news for ye, mighty Zabalas!” he stated as he banged a fist off of his massive breastplate in an apparent salute. Phaera noticeably rolled her eyes.
“Go on,” Zabalas gestured, none too thrilled about being interrupted again, but wanted to hear the news.
“The barbarian village to the south, Chansuk, has been broken by yer Dark Legion, Me Lord,” he calmly reported. “Yer waves of goblinoid forces have been devastating to the structured Races of Order, I’m thinkin’. Goblinoids of all kinds have joined yer mighty forces and soon will the ogres and trolls, if they be knowin’ what’s good for ‘em!” Megnus said excitedly, again pounding a fist off his metal chest piece in salute to Zabalas. “And of course, ye have the full support of Shadowmere….”
Zabalas spun to face the warrior. “I have not yet begun to piece this legion together,” he forcefully explained to the slagfell. “That is obvious.”
Megnus saw the succubus snicker out of the corner of his eye as if she enjoyed seeing the repercussions of the incensed warlord focused on him and not her. Megnus noticed and let it go without causing a confrontation. After all, she was an offspring of Lilith, the Demon Queen, and he did not want to begin what would surely be an irreversible blight on the two races. Especially since Zabalas had recently begun his recruitment of the succubi into his army.
“That undead wretch that ye have acquired should be growin’ in strength soon too, as ye suggested,” Megnus congratulated, drawing a sadistic smile and nod from the obsidian-clad warlord, who abruptly stood.
“That ‘wretch’ of which you speak was once a very powerful mage…leave me now, for I have much to think about,” he instructed, beginning to dislike how the slagfell was regarding his other guest.
“My plans require even more power than we have already assembled. If I can unite even one brood of succubi and their thralls with an entire city of slagfell dwarves, the surface creatures will become much less of a concern,” Zabalas explained, slamming a gauntleted fist into his open palm. “Soon, I will convince all of the surface brutes to join me, but for now the lich and the succubi families are my main focus,” he continued, speaking to himself more than anyone else.
As Megnus and Phaera continued to walk away, the slagfell leaned in to the succubus.
“Ye’ll never replace his Nydiri,” he whispered to her. “To think so is to tempt the hand of demons ye can’t imagine.”
Without warning or even a sound, and before the succubus could respond, the slagfell warrior was launched from his scaled boots by a mighty hand. He was sent spinning through the air to land unceremoniously on his back. Megnus came to a stop and wiped his bleeding lip, all the while looking up in shock at the dark figure towering over him, who was glaring at him with contempt and rage, the likes of which he had never known before. It shook the warrior to his core!
How‘d this man cross ten paces so durned quickly in that heavy armor and not even make a sound? Megnus finally wondered, his face stinging from the heavy blow.
Zabalas’ face appeared inhuman to the slagfell dwarf. It was pale and vicious, with a look of unholy power in his black eyes that seemed not to register any pupils at present, he looked truly demonic.
The blackened armor that the warlord bore was so polished that he could witness his own horrified reflection within its shiny, mirrored sheen. As if noticing for the first time, Megnus observed that Zabalas’ armor was completely pristine, whereas his own armor was dull and marked with numerous battle scars.
“You shall never speak that name again!” Zabalas threatened as he withdrew his large and wicked sword from its scabbard, its tip drawing closer to Megnus. Its glow ranged in hue from pink to a deep purple flame that flickered along its length as he inched it closer to touch the pale skin of Megnus’ face. The slagfell warrior involuntarily flinched in response as a cold sensation washed over him.
“Or you will feel the cold taste of my blade as it drains your very life…slowly,” Zabalas finished the threat calmly in a whisper to the fallen warrior.
The slagfell could have sworn he saw a smiling face within the flames of the sword. Megnus had never before witnessed anything like the power that this man possessed; if indeed he was a man.
Zabalas was the most powerful creature the slagfell warrior had ever seen and he felt it wise to remain on his good side. Megnus Bloodstone was a general within his clan’s military structure, a prince and heir to the throne of Shadowmere, and was a seasoned warrior who battled everything the subterrane and the surface folk could muster. But this individual triggered an unparalleled fear and that was a very alien emotion to the warrior.
Whatever…thing… gave Zabalas his power…it be a ruinous creature fer sure, I’m thinkin’, Megnus realized. He sat amidst the piles of bones on Zabalas’ throne room floor in humiliation and watched the warlord walk away from him.
Zabalas returned to his throne as Megnus stood up. Phaera, the albino succubus, snickered again to herself as she watched the proud slagfell right himself and exit the throne room. The ire in the warlord’s expression and the ferocity of that backhand strike told her exactly what his legendary bride-to-be meant to him.
What a woman you must have been, Nydiri, Phaera thought.
Legend also stated that Zabalas was once a templar and that his beloved was killed while he was off fighting in a war.
She looked up from where the slagfell had landed, noticing the small spatter of blood on the floor, and then back to the man on the throne again. She thought of how he seemed to transform a bit more and more each day into something more fierce…more demonic…and wondered if it really was her imagination or not.
Yes, this version of Zabalas had the potential to lead the very forces of Pandemonium into war, she thought as she smiled, and continued on toward her chambers. Aspect Nahemia would be wise in choosing Zabalas as her champion!
Once in her room, she gazed into the larger mirror on her wall, stared into it and willed her natural demonic side to show through, revealing a more ferocious and distorted type of beauty as her amber eyes glowed bright in the mirror’s reflection. Curved, ivory horns jutted from her still-white forehead and her ears sharpened at the tips, looking like an elf in that regard. The claws on her fingers elongated and hardened. A set of bat-like wings sprung from her back and a tail sprouted from her backside. She smiled, revealing a sharp pair of fangs. Then she quickly willed that form to fade and ran a hand through her thick, white hair, and lay down on her bed comfortably as sleep took her.
Zabalas was seated upon his throne once more. “My power is growing with each eve, isn’t it father?” Zabalas directed toward the undead creature at his side. The creature looked at Zabalas as if to say something, but merely gargled something foul and looked away from him. This was of course due to the fact that the creature had no tongue.
“I employ one large contingent of orcs and goblins, who are completely under my command and there is more to come…,” he said, folding his arms over his chest.
“Now, I must once more confer with the lich and make sure we are working toward regaining the item that holds the key to his unbridled and glorious return to power,” Zabalas continued explaining to the undead creature. He started to head away from his throne, with the sound of his steel boots echoing in the large, near-empty hall. “With this once-powerful creature returned to full strength and at my beck and call, the possibilities are endless!”
With that, Zabalas exited his throne room, disappearing down a hall. The undead creature that was once his father shambled loyally just a few paces behind.
His whaaaaatt??!! See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!
Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase Covenant of the Faceless Knights and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!
Photos from Stock.xchng.
All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios, LLC 2011 unless otherwise noted