The Blood Lord summoned me and I did my usual groveling. It was only my peculiar talent that kept me from being a victim of his murderous tantrums. They were quite spectacular. Heads would be torn from healthy bodies and if the heart did not still beat sufficiently to squirt blood from the victim’s neck into his mouth, then the body would be squeezed so as to create a fountain, of sorts. One would think he would grow tired of this trick.
Yes, summoned for my skill of sight. Funny how I now look backwards, toward a time when things were different. For me. Wretched joy. That warm sunlight now burns my memories. I have a secret that no one must know. Those memories live and I cannot banish them, though I have tried all these years and years. Years. I have lost track of time. What is time? I received my immortality. My punishment. My greatest feat. My madness.
Yes, yes. The Lord of Undeath had sent for me but I could only stand so close, with exarches forming a barrier between. Blades stood at the ready should my supplications not be convincing enough. He directed me, the blades drew ever closer, and I began to train my thoughts. Into my trance I descended, quite real, but eyes rolled back for effect.
“Pluton… Illidan Stormrage… Five Heros…”
I suppressed my deepest, secret feelings, for my lord had suspicions. Of all. Of everything. Seers watching the seer. Assassins killing the assassin. Surely amongst his minions there was another like me. Less talented. Fools. I continued my chant:
“The Five… Soul Stone… Curses!”
I relayed to my lord the actions of the five. How they had descended to the core of Pluton, overcoming despair, overcoming the presence of evil, and even initially chasing away the Aspect of Malthal, Reaper of Souls. Now they stood near the very heart of Pluton, atop four small pillars that surrounded the central pillar upon which the Soul Stone rested, embraced in mighty obsidian arms. High above them pointed crystalline spikes, which decorated the ceiling. Below them, nothing but a bottomless abyss.
“Cube of Twin Virtues!”
My pupils were pointed toward the underside of my brow, but I did not need to see the Blood Lord’s reaction, for his mind let out a horrific roar. Pure rage. The emanations of his anger filled the chamber and energized the exarches. Their blades inching a bit closer to me. Murderous anger. Kill the messenger. Kill anything.
I paused my chant so as to let matters cool, in this very, very heated place. Then I began to paint the picture. The sorceress had split herself into four avatars of chaos. One stood beneath the Soul Stone and within her hands she held the Cube of Twin Virtues. It was of two colors. Red for elemental chaos. Blue for the elemental astral sea. I took absolutely wonderful delight in knowing that use of the cube could lead one to go insane. Poor, poor sorceress. Delightful. Wonderful. Marvelous. Madness, my friend. Join with. Still, the cube, held in her hands, was suppressing the Soul Stone’s abyssal chaotic energy. I could feel my lord’s escalating malevolence.
“I will deal a special torment upon this one! Fiery red hair indeed!”, boomed the Blood Lord. He was never wrong about these kinds of things.
My chant continued. The cube and stone fought each other, shooting twisty tendrils of red and blue intertwining in a fiery death grip. The sorceress did what she could to manipulate and guide the cube, while the Soul Stone fought with ruthless will.
Meanwhile the rest of the five did battle with the Aspect of Malthal, Reaper of Souls. The dwarf jumped upon its back and with a mighty blow rendered the Aspect’s hands weak. The mighty scythe did fall from its clutches and the perch, tumbling endlessly into the void below. As I relayed this, my lord let out a terrible shriek that blew past the exarches, their blades and me. Reverberations of his anger echoed throughout.
“There will be a most magnificently heinous demise for that little one!”, boomed the Blood Lord. He was never wrong about these kinds of things.
These pronouncements seemed make my lord somewhat calmer, so I softly supported with, “My lord, yes, yes, most magnificently heinous my lord.”
Exorcised of his steel, the Reaper drew two more scythes from under his cloak. Yet the cleric had already laid down his hallowed ground, protecting his friends. With this news, a hint of anxiety from my master, perchance? The two scythes then came down upon the dwaf, rendering him slowed and grievously wounded, if he were but a normal dwarf. Still he fought on, with the wizard casting a most impressive spell, one in which I had mastered so long ago, when I was still able to turn up a corner of my lips in a suppressed grin. The mirror sphere confused the reaper, causing it to do harm to itself. Then the young wizard’s mind put forth a mighty, icy grasp upon the Aspect. The Blood Lord’s hoof pounded upon the floor. Nothing was subtle.
“That one, that one shall feel my touch of death as I grasp her puny body and pluck out her ribs one by one!”, growled my prince. He was never wrong when it came to execution on the details.
My vision continued and I relayed a blow by blow account of the action. The cleric had been wounded badly, but healed himself. The dwarf grew weaker and weaker, eventually falling unconscious, which was fortunate for me as it allowed the exarches to relax and withdraw their blades from my head just a little bit. Jesters. Fools. Glory to the cursed. The cleric was then dominated. Marvelous. Wonderful. Welcome to a bit of madness, my dear cleric. The anger of my halo of blades decreased. The prince loved the news, stomping his hoof with delight, if that was possible.
I then described how the dominated cleric was made to dutifully walk off the edge – not a hint of concern upon his face for his fate. Falling. Falling. Now unconscious. Sweet dreams not hinting of impending end. Wretched wizard did cast a spell to slow the fall. Wretched wizard is most impressive, casting a magical gate through which the cleric could fall and reappear upon the platform with the measly human ranger waiting with healing elixirs. Curses. Wonderful. Marvelous.
With the cleric now awake and rejoining the fray, the heroes grew stronger in their spirits. And stronger still as the dwarf finger regained his senses, surely like so many times before. The cube and the stone continued their never ending struggle for supremacy. The balance only temporarily lost to one side or the other. Chaos, my prince’s love, was not always to his liking, for this kind of disorder was not the right kind.
Balance too did move from side to side with the heroes and the reaper, for the soul stone’s tendrils did touch the creature and turned its armor to glowing red. The ranger stood flat on his feet. Dominated. Marvelous. My prince must be a little less angry now, but only little, for there is no blood, no pain, no torture just yet. Hope springs eternal. Still, the ranger’s twin arrows did fly straight – straight into his surprised cleric. Fabulous. Marvelous is domination, for you, not me, that is. Share the madness. Mine and yours. Don’t be selfish.
Changing the course of the battle once again, the dwarf’s axe came down upon the reaper so hard that I contend that I could more than see it. I left this part out for my lord. But with word that the wizard was now using the cube to inhibit the soul sone, my prince’s rage was once again nearing deafening roar. One never got used to it. The sorceresses chaos storm removed the red from the reaper’s armor and the ranger became free of the domination. Poor madness. Loyal companion. Gone from the ranger.
To my astonishment the cleric then performed a trick worthy of praise. With a casual motion of his hand, the Aspect of Malthal, Reaper of Souls, was simply dismissed. Gone. Sent. Somewhere. Another plane. Another reality. Anywhere but here. The Blood Lord was displeased…
“This one. This one of the dragon. I shall deliver a special message to their god through them. This one shall yearn for the mercy of death, but it shall never come. They shall know torment everlasting!” He was never one to be wrong on such matters.
While the reaper was gone, the heroes quickly formed around the anticipated return location. The ranger stowed his bow and readied his two swords. The dwarven fighter raised his axe. The cleric braced. The wizard and sorceress plied their magics upon the Cube of Twin Virtues.
Yet still, the soul stone had an answer. A wave of black energy blasted outward from it, destroying the sorceress’ illusory minions and attacking the hero’s minds, weakening them emotionally, inching them closer to madness, to hopelessness and utter despair. Splendid. Delightful. Cloudy thoughts of gloom. Madness, my savior from the truth.
Upon the reaper’s return, the hero’s blows struck with devastation. It’s fate was now all too obvious. It’s existence was now on the verge of finality. Anger. Sadness. Did it ponder, even for an instant, the road not taken? No more shall its scythes reap. No more glory for the new Pluton. No more pride in souls reaped. Never again to reap. True sadness in ending. Marvelous is the end. Lucky is he, not me.
With a final, tremendous burst of energy, the Reaper of Souls, Aspect of Malthal, slashed out with its twin scythes. Energized by the edge of death, upon which their wielder now stood, the blades cut deeply into the dwarf. The dwarf tottered and began to slump. “Join me in death”, the reaper whispered.
The cleric would have none of this. No death on his watch lest it be his foes. With that his own anger leapt forward in a divine reprisal, healing the fighter and basking him in the warm protection of Bahamut. The reaper was at its end. The sorceress’ tempest surge leapt from her ring finger with the mightiest possible blow, enveloping it within the center of the chaotic energies. The cleric’s blow soon followed, rendering the reaper stunned. How could this be happening? It fell backwards off the pillar, scythes slicing only through the air in their last attempt to reap. Falling. Falling…
The ranger then leapt off of the pillar after the reaper. Crazy madness. Glorious. Fabulous. Blades leading, he dived head first and accelerated though force of will in this strange place, the astral plane. Blades plunging into the reaper, the ranger now tangled with the reaper.
“I shall pierce this one’s eyes with my claws and wiggle my fingers around until his brain oozes out. Then I will have him healed and do it again. Over and over again. He shall know my wrath!”, shouted the Blood Lord. He is never wrong on such things and has an uncanny knack for recalling and reviving his original anger.
The fighter recovered, thanks to his cursed cleric, and joined the ranger in the melee. Aided by the controllable gravity of the astral plane, he soon caught up to the falling reaper and ranger. They tumbled downward. Spinning. Whirling. Fighting. Frenzy. The ranger and fighter continued their assault, dealing continued damage upon the doomed reaper. Like a meteor’s unalterable course, they fell toward destiny. The ranger hit. The fighter hit. The wounds bled. The reaper was no more.
On top of the pillars, the wizard and sorceress continued their efforts to control the cube and defeat the soul stone. Micro-cracks began to form on the stone. The two magicians wielding the power of the gods were too much for the soul stone. The cracks grew larger as the wizard’s force of will via the Cube of Twin Virtues was too great for the soul stone to repel. What power! I once yearned for such power. I passed through the void, to the other side. No longer the master. Still the master. I have a secret. Hope.
Clasping the Cube of Twin Virtues, the young sorceress did try to attune. Yet the surrounding maelstrom was too much, perhaps, for she repeatedly failed to gain sufficient mastery. Had she only been under my tutelage. Yes. That would have been marvelous. Wonderful. But it would have ended badly, no doubt. Perhaps the young wizard? No, never. Neither. Never. It would have been splendid. Yes. Ah, what happened then? The sorceress was able to somehow aid the cube as a beam of energy leapt from the cube, through the black soul stone, crushing its black light and striking the ceiling of that innermost chamber of Pluton. The dark red energy of Pluton’s walls did start to recede. Another ending was coming.
With the godly cube raised above her head, the wizard summoned her greatest triumph yet. In a moment, indescribable energy poured forth from the cube and its light disintegrated the soul stone. The cube’s energy filled the chamber, casting its powers upon that inner sanctum of Pluton. The plague upon Pluton was dissipating. In that realm, there was an ending of the sadness, the gloom and despair, the death and madness. I yearn for such an end.
With words of such tidings, the Blood Lord grew still. The chamber was deathly quiet. I continued in a softer voice, for I now saw an old man appear before the heroes. He was dressed plainly, with no adornments except for golden canaries that gently fluttered about him. My prince listened intently and I thought that these may be my last words. Oh how I wish they had been.
The old man had the heroes gather before him and hallowed ground spread all around him. He spoke:
“Heroes, you have defeated the prime evil, the demon lords are now lesser. Ancient power was within the soul stone and its power is now forever weakened. Perhaps this was destiny. In the land from which you came, your foe is commanded by the demon lords. Take heed, but now, for this act of judgement and justice, you shall be rewarded.”
Golden light then enveloped the heroes. Their amulets shined brighter. After a pause, the old man continued:
“Now you already possess the ability to return to your realm.”
The cleric then bowed and motioned to be given an audience. The old man nodded. The cleric asked, “My lord, how may we better serve? How may we use the cube for greater good?” The old man replied, “Ah, you wish to have greater mastery of the cube. True mastery is only possible with the presence of all the gods. Perhaps one day you shall know more.” The cleric bravely continued, “My lord, I have an amulet with two faces – Bahamut and Tiamat. I am of two minds.” The old man stopped him there with a knowing smile, “Young cleric, Tiamat and Bahamut are but one. Perhaps one day you shall know more.” He then motioned for the heroes to gather around and they each touched him on the shoulders.
For a moment I lost the vision, but quickly regained focus on the incredibly powerful event. The old man, the cleric, wizard, sorceress, fighter and ranger were now upon their astral ship. With echoing words, the old man spoke, “Now my heroes, I must depart. Fight for justice. Fight for justice…” The old man visage briefly shimmered to that of a gold dragon and he was gone.
The Blood Lord was still here. He sat in silence. Then came the explosion.
“Names! I want names! They shall all suffer for their deeds against me.”
With that, his rage hit its zenith. Wave upon increasing wave of anger emanated from his essence and like shock waves blasted all within eyesight and perhaps beyond. The entire plane trembled. The exarches were thrown to the ground, and so was I. I crawled to make my escape. I could sense bodies being smashed behind me, indiscriminately targeted in the Blood Lord’s supreme rage. Glorious. Marvelous. Terrible. I exist.
And so too did my secret, for I harbor feelings that I have tried to banish. There is goodness in me. I secretly cheered for the heroes. I cannot explain it nor suppress it. I cannot deny it. I hate it. I fear that one day it will get the better of me. I thought I had murdered these feelings so long ago. I am weak, despite all my powers. I attained greatness and everlasting living death, but this simple thing I cannot conquer. I must go out and kill something now to make myself feel better. Yes, there is one particular exarch that I despise more than the others. He will die. Tonight.