Saturday, December 30, 2006

Burning Grief

The Lady of Fire sat next to her friend while the others circled the gatestone. Twenty feet high, the monolith had not always been on this desolate planet. Once, it had been part of a network of similar stones, all arranged in an arcane pattern around the City of Secrets. Then came Vecna's defeat in Sigil. The backlash shattered the city, stripped the Maimed Lord of most of his power, and sent him hurtling into a dark, dreadful demiplane where the foolish and the hopeful believed he would be imprisoned for all time.

Unfortunately, beings like Vecna have a way of deciding their own fates. The Eye and the Hand, as he was often called, had escaped. The "how" of his emancipation were still unclear but most believed he had made a set of dark pacts and managed to use the demiplane's own powers against themselves. He had even, in the process, managed to destroy or negate all of the beings behind his oaths. An escape free and clear, it would seem.

The truth behind this had become painfully clear to the Elementals during the past year. Vecna hadn't quite gotten out of all his vows. One survived his flight from Ravenloft and demanded repayment in full. In exchange for Vecna's freedom, another dire deity wanted to slip the bonds that had held him for eons.

Tharuzdin. The End of All Things. If he ever became free and unfettered, everything would die. Everything. Everywhere. A primal force of entropy incarnate, he was both the herald of reality's end and its executioner. And now, he had the power and intelligence of Vecna behind him in his bid to make the Endtimes actually happen.

That thought always made Byrne shudder, just like she was now. In her hands, she held Faile's fingers, stroking her friend gently and trying not to let guilt eat at her inside. She wasn't doing so well with that; she already wanted to find a small dark cave, curl up, and die.

Rather than focus on that while the Lady of Air lay unconscious beside her, Byrne steered her thoughts back toward the present - specifically, the monolith. This was one of 10,000 stones that used to mark the streets of Tovag Baragu, Vecna' so-called City of Secrets. A place likely older than the ancient lich himself, he had claimed it after scoring a major victory concerning the site. With it, he claimed dominion over thousands of interdimensional portals, each one tied to a stone just like this one.

When Tovag Baragu detonated, most of the stones were destroyed. However, a few hundred survived the cataclysm when the explosions knocked them through other portals. Scattered across the multiverse at random, each one was now an enduring symbol of the power of the City of Secrets and a link to one of the other existing stones.

And one of them, somewhere out there, was the only known way to reach Vecna's divine realm without his direct permission or knowledge. It was certain that the Maimed Lord knew they were coming, what they had planned, but he couldn't know where or when because even they didn't know that much. Even the Master of Secrets couldn't learn what no one knew.

The other Elementals were just about finished activating the stone. Each one had a complex series of runes that had to be touched in the right order to make it function. Between Nyx' mystical knowledge and Azure's ability to see the "flow" of any power he witnessed, they had been quite successful so far at triggering the monoliths without calling down their wrathful traps. Corundar and Akasha were with them just in case that record of success finally failed.

Byrne caught herself wondering if this would be the gate that finally took them to Vecna's realm. If it was, she knew what she had to do. She was out of control; Faile's burning had shown her that. Even if the others were lying to her, even if she couldn't trust any of them, she couldn't trust herself now either. She looked over at the black satchel lying nearby. Inside was...

"You... are going... to use it, aren't you?" It was Faile's voice! Shaky and quiet, almost a whisper, but she'd spoken!

Byrne forced herself not to hug her injured friend in relief. Then the winged woman's words sunk in and she frowned again. Closing her eyes, she said the thing she'd been rehearsing since hurting Faile days ago. "I am so sorry, Fae. I was so upset and so mixed up that I just lost control. I know you may never forgi..."

"I forgive you."

Byrne's brain crashed. "W-what?"

"I should... have backed off... when you told me too. I'm sorry."

Again with the crashing and now with the burning too. "Why in the world would you be sorry?! I'm the one that hurt you. Dammit, Fae-Fae. I could have killed you."

The singed elf nodded slowly, obviously not a comfortable thing to do by the slight grimace on her lips. "Is that why... you are going to throw your life away?" With one bandaged hand, Faile pointed at the satchel, its leather so dark it seemed to absorb all light.

"Someone has to, you know. It won't work unless someone dies."

Faile tried to sit up and failed. From her reclined position, she stared at Byrne reproachfully, or at least as reproachful as she could be with one side of her face covered. "That's why Akasha's going to do it. Her power over Life might save her."

Byrne shook her head. "Might is a damn strong word. If it doesn't, you all get stuck without a healer in the middle of the biggest fight any of us have ever seen. That doesn't make good tactical sense. Even Big Stupid over there agrees with that." Byrne nodded at Corundar, using the nickname affectionately given to him years ago.

"Look, Fae. I have to do this. I have been so out of it lately and I can't just blame the children for it. Ever since we emerged from T's nightmare realm, I haven't been the same. maybe I'm tainted or maybe I've just always been this screwed up and it took me a while to notice, but I am a danger to everyone now. If I don't get away from you all, I might hurt someone again like I hurt you. They don't even know I did it, but they will if one of them is next. You know?"

Byrne squeezed Faile's hand. "You know? Ummm, Fae?"

The elf was gently sleeping beside her, having passed out during her tirade. Byrne sighed, cuddled in a little closer, and waited for the others to activate the gatestone. None of them needed to know anything about this. Not a damn thing.

Not until it was too late to save her, anyway...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

<--- Game Update: The Elemental Gems --->

Each of the Elementals bears a jewel in their foreheads, a focus for their powers and a sign of their special origins. These gems were created by their "father", the lich lord Urathyme, and empowered by the elemental and energy planes.

Intended to be a way of controlling the Elementals should they prove uncooperative with their progenitor's plans to rule the multiverse, the mind-shackling power of the Gems was broken by an ally of the Elementals. This allowed them to create their own destinies and eventually defeat Urathyme during his bid to conquer all of reality.

The Elemental Gems are one inch wide and slightly more than that in length, resembling an ovoid mostly submerged in the bearer's forehead. The external appearance of the gems is only a small part of their structure; they also have "roots" that weave into the Elementals' brains and spiral down their spinal columns. Removal of the Gems would be both extremely difficult to achieve and painfully fatal.

Powers: The Gems have an undefined, near-limitless amount of power over the element to which they are attuned. This manifests in multiple ways, only some of which have ever been discovered by their bearers. Some of their known capabilities are as follows.

  • Armor: Each gem can be mentally commanded to cover the bearer in a suit of crystalline armor resembling intricate, self-sealed plate complete with a full helm and face mask. This suit takes a free action to call or send away and grants a number of bonuses. Chief among these is a +15 armor bonus with no maximum Dex or armor skill check penalty and a +8 to a specific statistic.
  • Elemental Manifestation: The Elementals can call forth a seemingly endless supply of their basic element and its normal forms. This acts as the spell produce flame attuned to the given element. The form this manifestation takes can vary; water can also appear as ice, wind can appear as fog, earth can become gemstone or metal ore, etc. The basic elements are permanent manifestations; alternate forms (gems, ice, etc.) fade after an hour and return to the elemental planes.
    • These manifestations can be shaped by the will of the bearer as if they constantly possessed the stone shape spell focused on their element type. This also allows them to shape and mold existing material of their type, though the time required is double what the spell lists if the elemental matter is not from their own manifestations.
  • Attack: The Gems can generate powerful blasts of elemental energy; these can be used as many times a round as the bearer has ranged attacks, requires a ranged touch attack roll, and can inflict up to 40d6 damage of the appropriate type each round (divided by the number of attacks taken). In addition, each attack type has a special property based on its core element.
  • Defense: Each bearer can create a shield of elemental energy that duplicates the effect of the shield spell. Erecting or taking down this defensive power is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. The elemental shield also absorbs damage taken by spells or psionic attacks that inflict harm measured in hit points. Each shield begins with 200 hit points and has a hardness of 10. These hit points refresh every 24 hours at midnight; if they are used up, the Defense power does not work until the bearer surrounds him or herself in their element and spends one hour "recharging".
  • Immunities: The Elemental Gems make their bearer immune to attack forms based on their element, exposure to their element, spells of their element type, and grants the bearer their element as a Type (Fire, Earth, Negative Energy, etc.). In addition, while their armor power is active, they gain all the benefits and traits of an Elemental.
  • Power Combinations: The elements do not exist solely by themselves, nor do the Gems. When two or more bearers are in physical contact, additional powers become available to them. Several are known to the Elementals, but a couple of the most useful (or notorious) are given here.
    • Darkness - Fire - Earth - Air - Water - Light: This combination creates a displacement effect that transforms the Elementals into pure energy and allows them to reappear anywhere on the same dimension they wish before becoming solid matter again. In all ways, this duplicates the greater teleport spell.
    • Earth - Air - Fire - Water: When used to mold and shape the elements in just the right way, this combination allows for the permanent creation of a hollow depression in the earth filled with a constantly swirling, heated water complete with bubbling effect. In other words, the elemental equivalent of a whirlpool hot tub.
    • Darkness - Fire: This combination creates a roiling blast of black flame that, if it destroys an object or being, obliterates them and denies the target the possibility of recreation or resurrection by any power less than that of a deity.
In future updates, specific Gems will be described in greater detail.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Darkness of the Heart

Those who didn't awaken from the sound of Faile's scream or Byrne's wail of protest were roused from their beds at the roar of the terrible drake landing among them. Its howl was like the winds of death itself, shrieking through an abyss of the damned. Its teeth gnawed at the thought of tasting divine flesh, so close and so vulnerable from its surprise assault.

Azure was the first to rise, grace incarnate as he vaulted to his feet in a flurry of white and blue silk. The blue was from his robes, garment he wore even when he slept. The white was the billow of his long hair, spiraling around him as he moved easily into a defensive stance.

Next was mighty Corundar, muscles rippling under dusky skin as he stood up out of his wolf fur blankets. His hand reaching for his massive weapon Terrasunder even before he had fully awakened, he barely had time to block the first of the dragon's attacks.

Akasha was already awake, her healing senses screaming at the pain of Faile's suffering. Not as swift as the others, not as combat inclined, she still had the presence of mind to move away from the lash of the dragon's night-black tail as it rent apart the ground where she'd been standing. With her, she took her charred companion. Deceptively strong for someone as slight and frail as the Lady of Light appeared, she easily hefted Faile's weight as she dodged.

Nyx, her opposite in every way, was also awake. The appearance of the armored knight had torn her from her dreams, something she would have been grateful for had the reason been less dire. Her dreams of late were dark ones, even for her. For once, what she beheld upon waking was worse than what her mind conjure. The dark knight on the dragon's back held her attention in some strange way, his face half concealed in an adamantine mask. The warrior raised his weapon, a wicked curved blade on a spiked pole, as his scaled mount lashed out.

That left only Byrne, down on her knees in shock. The others were in trouble but she didn't even see them. All she could see, all she could think, was what she'd just done. Her friend, Faile, burned so terribly... and by her hand! Her powers! How could she?!

Around her, the battle raged. The dragon was fierce and powerful, blasts of hellish power scattering the others as they desperately sought to avoid its touch. Divine as they were, their bodies were still subject to damage. No mortal weapon could harm them, but there was nothing mortal about a dragon.

Nor, apparently, about its master. The armored knight was lightning fast and seemed to know where they would strike before they did so. His single glowing orb gazing at Nyx the whole time, holding her fast as if by paralysis, he fought off the dual attacks of both Corundar and Azure each time they tried to strike at him.

"If we are to stop the rider, we must bring down that which he rides." Azure's voice was calm, as always. He looked at his earthen brother with a knowing half-smile. "Destruction, I believe, is your specialty."

"Byrne! Wake up! I need a link here!" The giant man's words finally broke through her self-condemning haze. His gigantic sword held back a deadly dragon's claw as he reached out with his free hand. She knew what he wanted. With a deep breath, she put her guilt aside and took his grasp.

Instantly their powers united. Earth and Fire spiraled within their souls, touching along the contact between their hands. Energies blossomed into being, circling over their hands and down both their arms. The strength of Earth. The rage of Fire. Together, they became...

Magma. The force of a volcanic eruption burst forth and struck the dragon full in its armored chest. The rider's one-eyed gaze broke from Nyx as his mount reared up in pain and fell backwards with a roar of pain. The rider did so as well, an anguished shout of surprise as his drake crashed down into his pinned body.

"Nice!" Corundar followed up the dragon's fall with a stinging weave of sword strikes. It often came as a surprise to his companions how quick the big man could be. He looked like a brute, but his combat skills were as sharp and polished as a crystal rapier. As quickly as he struck, he darted out of the way.

Byrne saw why as Azure moved in to where the Earth god had been. One hand extended in a martial strike, the sea elf plunged his hand into one of the dragon's gushing wounds. He winced as the acidic blood blistered his skin. It was painful but not cripplingly so. What he did in return was far, far worse.

Calling on his own gift, Azure send the raw power of bitter cold into the blood. It turned into steaming ruby, a frigid wave of dragon ichor growing spikes of ice because of the instantaneous freezing. It was eerily beautiful to behold.

And vicious in effect. Once the dragon's blood froze all the way to its wound, the cold did not stop. It went inside the beast, forming more spikes and swelling the creature's veins past the point of rupture. It screamed again, flailing as its flesh began to tear open from within. Its chest heaved once, eyes wide in terror.

Rising to her feet in the flickering light of the dying dragon's screams, Nyx lifted into the air on onyx wings. Her eyes were blazing with shadow fire as she reached out, hands spread wide. Destruction might have been Corundar's "specialty", but she was the Lady of Oblivion. This creature was essentially already dead; there was no sense letting the thing continue to writhe and suffer.

She whispered, "Dust" and reality obeyed. The dragon shook once more and exploded in a storm of withering motes. Its armor fell to ruin, rusting instantly as each plate clattered soundlessly to the earth.

As the battle with the dragon ended, Akasha's own conflict concluded as well. The elf in her arms had been horribly injured, burns over most of her body. Faile's wings were practically bone and ashes; not one feather remained on them nor did skin cover much of their span. It had taken a massive outpouring of energy to heal her, but that was the Lady of Light's blessing. Though Faile had been nearly gone, her fate was never in question. Akasha simply refused to let Death win, not while she still breathed.

Byrne rose to her feet as the dragon died, running to Akasha's side. "Is she... will she live?"

The glowing woman nodded, her patient wreathed in healing light. Already, color and life were returning to Faile's skin. "She will live. The dragon's breath will not claim her this day."

With a half-choked sound, Byrne stared at Akasha. "D-dragon's breath?"

The gifted healer nodded. "Yes. Such terrible burns. What else could have done this?"

Before Byrne could answer, one of Corumdar's war cries caught both their attention. "Hello?!? We aren't done back here!" Their three siblings were still engaged in battle, this time with the ashed dragon's rider. On foot now, he was proving to be far deadly than his steed. As fierce as the abyssal drake had been, its master was even more terrifying.

As quick as he seemed strong, he was parrying Corundar's strongest attacks, dodging Azure's bolts of ice, and seemed impervious to Nyx' necromantic spells. The sound of steel on steel rang out where they were battling, sparks dancing as they clashed and parted.

"Go on and help them; I have her. She'll be safe." Akasha nodded to the fight. "They need you."

Byrne swallowed but stood, her axe coming to her hand with a thought. Akasha thought the dragon had burned Faile? But...

No time for that now! Hefting her weapon, Byrne roared as she ran towards the battle. She had hurt her friend; at least this way she could take that pain out on someone else. Fire erupted from her blade, a torrent of flames enveloping both it and her.

The black knight raised one hand, a wave of force smashing Corundar backwards. A sweep of his blade-staff sent Azure away with a shallow cut across his ocean blue chest and Nyx' lightning bolt rebounded off his armor and sent the dark sorceress reeling through the air. He turned to face Byrne, momentarily clear of foes.

And then vanished with an amused glitter of his exposed eye. Byrne snarled in impotent fury and slammed her axe into the ground where he'd stood. "No!" she howled. "Get back here you bastard!!!"

It took all three of them to pull her off the spot, Azure grabbing her arms while Corundar knocked the vengeful, burning weapon from her grasp. Nyx was holding her fast with a spell, trying to reason with her and bring her down out of her rage. "Byrne, calm down! He's gone! We need to get out of here before he comes back with a stronger force! Byrne!"

After a few more moments struggling against Nyx' glowing hand of magic and Azure's masterful pin, her body went slack. "But... damn it!" She was nearly incoherent, but her friend's words were getting through. Barely.

As Azure stepped away, Corundar took his foot off her axe with a grimace. The smell of burnt flesh was thick in the air. Another sibling hurt by her powers. She looked down, feeling sick. "I'm sorry, Cor."

The big man shook his head and kicked the weapon back up into her hands. "Don't be. The dragon tried to fry Faile; it died for that. Its rider won't fare any better when we see him next."


The half-giant put his foot down, a gesture that shook the earth. "No buts! We have to get moving. Everybody, pack up and let's move! The next portal's around here somewhere and the sooner we find our way back to our world, the better!"

Byrne shook her head. "But Faile didn't...."

Azure put his hand on her shoulder. "We know, Byrne. She's not dead, but we can not stay here and risk a larger assault. The Maimed Lord is sending his agents at us and now that we've been located, there will be more. Corundar is right." His smile was as cool as his touch. "We have to move on."

Akasha packed her bed rool and laid it next to Faile. "She's still unconscious. Cor, you'll have to carry her."

As her siblings prepared to move on, Byrne put her things in her backpack quietly. She looked at Faile the whole time. What would happen when the bird-lady woke up and told the others what really happened? Before that happened, she should tell them herself.

She opened her mouth to speak and was interrupted again, this time by Nyx. "The forces of Undeath are moving against us even now. It will not be long before Vecna's next attack."

"All the more reason to move! Byrne, you got something to say?" Corundar looked at her expectantly, obviously impatient to head out.

She tried to speak. She needed to tell them the truth.

But the words wouldn't come. The guilt was just too much, the shame ran too deep. Try as she might, nothing moved past her lips. She barely even breathed. Finally, she stopped trying. "No. Nothing." It was barely a whisper.

"That's what I thought," he rumbled as he threw his bag over his shoulder. "Then let's get going. This portal isn't going to deliver itself to us."

Byrne bowed her head, unable to look at them right now. Gathering her belongings, she fell into step behind Nyx. Usually the first in line, she didn't have the heart to do anything but stand in back right now. Her stomach hurt. She felt downright ill, disgusted at herself....


A reality away, a wizened hand moved over a crystal orb, watching the six as they made their way into the night. The Lord of Whispers laughed dryly, a hollow sound to match his hollow heart. He'd been unable to find them until now, but dark secrets were his domain. The moment the Lady of Fire chose to keep this one, the entire scene became his to witness.

"Excellent. Excellent..."

Saturday, December 16, 2006


She was with them, but she hadn't actually been with them in some time.

When had it happened? When had the family bond she'd shared with her "siblings" broken? They had been such an important part of each other's lives. They had defeated the Liche Lord Urathyme with that unity, that love for one another. Had it been a lie?

Or was it that like everything else, even the closest of friends could not remain together forever? They had been inseparable once. But that was then.

For Byrne, at least, things had changed.

Now she looked at them as they slept, alone under alien stars none of them recognized, and wondered who they really were. Was the whisper of the Mad God correct? She had heard his voice in the Dark Lord's tomb, clear as she could hear Corundar's titanic snoring now. He had said something, words she prayed to whatever powers watched over other powers were false.

Her heart was not so sure. Foul as Tharuzdin's speech had been, something in it rang too true for her to discount any longer.

"There are monsters in your womb. The others know, but they will not tell you."

She put her hand on her stomach, feeling how it was already growing hard and firm. Only a couple of months along now, she knew who the father was and by all rights, she should have been thrilled. Her love, the Lord of Flames, a god equal in stature to what she'd given up to go on this insane but vital journey, had been with her the night before she descended. It was his gift, his passion, that grew inside her now.

Wasn't it? It could be none other; could it?

But if that were true, and nothing else could be, how could her children be monsters? They would be infants born of love and fire, perfect in every way. She refused to believe the first part of the Mad One's message. She just couldn't bear anything else.

But the other half... Did her brothers and sisters know something about her pregnancy? If they did, and they were not telling her, she would roast them for the treachery! How dare they not reveal anything they'd learned? Weren't they her friends? She would tell them anything, even painful things if she had to. Didn't she have the right to the same thing!?! Damn them!!!

"Byrne! Knock it off... I'm tying to sleep." It was Faile's voice and Faile's hand throwing a rock landing nearby. Byrne blinked. She was flaming, really flaming. A corona of fire spiraled around her, burning all of the grass around her and slagging the nearby rocks. She was literally scorching the landscape, arcs of raw plasma coming dangerously close to where the others were sleeping.

"Dammit," she murmured. "Sorry." She reigned in her powers, bringing the flame inside to simmer around her soul instead. She'd said sorry, but she didn't mean it. If they were hiding something from her, as the stars were her witness, they'd all feel her heat before it was done.

"Okay." Faile again. "Spill it. What's bothering you?"

The winged elf, her peregrine feathers fluttering as she walked closer, had a look of concern on her soft face. She was so pretty in the moonlight, Byrne almost let her rage die down. Almost.

"Nothing. Go 'way."

Faile didn't listen. She never listened. Instead, she came within arm's reach and sat down. "No. You are upset. Tell me what's wrong. You've been like this ever since the tomb."

Byrne glowered and turned away. "I don't want to talk about it."

Another lie. She did want to talk about it. She wanted to wake everyone up and scream about it in fact. She wanted it all out in the open, with each of them confessing to whatever it was they didn't want her to know. Her hand went to her stomach again. They weren't monsters. They were beautiful, perfect babies and nothing would change that.

"Byrne, we love you. We want to help. Please talk to us."

The fire goddess felt her lip curl in sarcasm. "Oh really?"

Faile, never one to get subtleties of human speech, missed the sarcastic tone entirely. "Really. I want to know what is troubling you."

Byrne clenched one hand. The flames were burning hot in her now. She'd almost unleashed them at Tharuzdin's avatar but the others had stopped her. They didn't understand; none of them could. The power of Fire wasn't a gnomish power switch; it didn't just flick on and off. The inferno had risen and they hadn't let her give it release. It was still inside her, screaming to burst forth.

"Go away, elf. I'm serious. You don't want to be near me right now."

Footsteps approached her. Faile's. "Yes I do. Byrne, I'm your friend and if you won't open up to me, I can't help you."

Every word just made Byrne angrier. Her open up?!? She wasn't the one keeping secrets. She wasn't the one whispering behind people's backs. She wasn't the one who needed to start being honest. She was the only one here who was being honest! How dare she?

How dare she?!

And at that moment, Faile laid her hand heavily on Byrne's shoulder and turned her around. "Let go, Byrne. Please."

The touch, the words... Byrne couldn't take anymore.

So let go she did. With a snarl of incomprehensible rage, all her distrust and sense of betrayal came flooding out in a massive wave of divine fire. A cone of hellish, unyielding flame rushed from her body, picking the stunned elf up off the ground and hurling her backwards through the air. Faile had only a moment to scream before the heat seared the air from her lungs.

Wings on fire, skin steaming, and hair in ashed, the burning elf slammed into the ground in the midst of the Elemental's camp. Barely alive, she struggled to rise... and failed.

"Oh..." Byrne's heart sank as her horror rose.

"" Her eyes widened as the flames dies on her fingertips.

"...gods..." The Mistress of Fire started running towards her charred friend even as her other companions began to rise from their beds, sounds of confusion all around.

"...No!" Byrne screamed, utterly at herself. What had she done? The monster wasn't inside her. It was her!

Before she could reach Faile, try to help her, desperately try to heal her, all motion in the camp stopped at the sound of massive wing beats. From high overhead, a dark shape swooped down into visibility. An impossibly black dragon, huge and armored in plates of bladed adamantine, landed on the ground near the camp. Its rider, clad in the same style of intricate metalwork, was laughing viciously.

His voice was like the sound of an vile claw ripping through the flesh of innocents. Byrne, indeed all of them, could do nothing but listen mutely as the newcomer spoke. Some dark energy held them fast, made them helpless in the wake of his arrival.

"My master sent me to seal your doom, but I see you are handling that all by yourselves." And with that, he nodded with a mocking salute to Byrne.

The wave of guilt cut her more deeply than any weapon could.

And in that moment, the dark figure attacked!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dust and Dissolution

He sat on a throne of oblivion, pondering a kingdom of non-existence. It was his goal, the destruction of all. Not for the carnage, not for the killing, and not for the act of eradicating all that is or was. No, he cared nothing for bringing the end. He merely wanted the end to come.

His hand, black as the void and ancient beyond reckoning, moved over the globe that was his eye on the multiverse. Where it touched, a blight spread through reality, withering where it passed. A dark storm, his gesture corrupted, strangled, and dessicated everything it moved across. If he'd been capable of emotion, he would have smiled to see the Demise as it formed.

But such a gesture required feeling...

...and flesh.

In truth, he had no body, no form to speak of. He was the Shadow, the Darkness at the Last. He was the Final Moment, the Stilling Echo. He had no true shape, though his reflection in the hearts of those who followed him was often given some boundary so their minds could conceive of him in their own terms.

In their eyes, in their thoughts and souls, he was a tenebrous humanoid, featureless and frigid, darker than the deepest night. His eyes were cold stars of pale white, his hands ending in talons and his body exuding shadows like the blaze of a funeral pyre.

He had no name, needed no name, yet still they gave him one. he did not dissuade them, these living things that willingly embraced his message of destruction. He never asked for a name, never imparted in their minds a wish for any form of title, but despite his constant silence they had crowned him with a word that conjured in their hearts all that the End of All meant to them. His name, to them, was the first and last sound at the final, fading tick of the cosmic clock.


Lord of Madness. Master of Death. The Endbringer.

Some followed his church hoping to be spared. Others worshipped him seeking the power to bring ruin. A few were simply insane and swore themselves in their insensate ravings.

Fools, each and all. He cared nothing for them, could not care if he wished to. He had no wishes. He had no loyalty and asked none in return. His cult gained power through their own faith, not through any gifts he chose to bestow. He gave nothing and took nothing. They were ants, building temples in the shadow of a rock that would fall upon them without a moment's hesitation when the time came to do so.

But, and truths like this were when the dark one was at his most rational, even Tharuzdin had to admit his mortal minions had their uses. They were fools, yes, and damned to the very last one, but in their brief time alive they could serve his ends. He typically ignored them, let them do as they wished under the onus of his uncaring doom, but the Endtime was nearly at hand.

If the multiverse was to be destroyed, if the Kingdom of the Void was to be, he would have to take an active role in Armageddon.

And to do that, he needed hands and eyes in the Living World. He needed pawns to move across the board of Existence. He needed weapons.

Yes! Weapons! Ways to strike down his enemies, foes for whom he had names and faces. He knew who opposed his will. If darkness was to fall, he would have to deal with those standing in the path of the night.

It was time to move his hands, open his eyes, and call upon his servants. His mortal armies...

...and his immortal "allies".

One in particular needed to be pushed into play. Eyes and hands, indeed. If he could appreciate irony -appreciate anything- such an analogy would have amused him. As it was, he only paused as the thought of how appropriate his terms were where his greatest servant was concerned. Willing or not, there was one who would do as he commanded. One whose power to act in the lands of flesh surpassed his own.

The dark hand reached out and touched the edges of another's power. Instantly, attention focused angrily on Tharizdun.

And just as instantly, it was rebuffed by so much ageless might that the indignant deity flinched away from it lest it get burned by Oblivion's ire.

"What is it? What do you want?"

The darkness coalesced, becoming real enough to communicate. The six before him would fall, and this god of evil would be their bane.

"I have need of you." Tharuzdin let a small amount of power bleed through the contact, just enough to show both the sheer titanic energies that gave him the right to command and to express the reward of divine might being offered for faithful service.

"You... you have my attention. What do you want me to do?"

If it could feel anything, the darkness would have been pleased.

"Something very simple for you, Vecna..."

"I want you to kill for me."