Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Dark Ages, Book 1: Chapter 2, Part 1

(Continued from Chapter 1, Part 3.)


He hated being summoned like a dog. He didn’t dare disobey, of course. The Dark One had taught Ozzie that lesson long ago, and Ozzie's master hadn’t been nearly as strong then as he was now.
The worst part was that the Dark One seemed to have no interest in the politics of fiends. Jaegmead of the imps was once again protesting their treatment at the hands of the goblins and gargoyles, and once again it was left to Ozzie to remind the lesser imps of their place. If Jaegmead persisted in this folly, Ozzie would have to have him killed.

The whole business was tiresome. What was the point of having a leader if he wouldn’t lead? Ozzie enjoyed the power of his office as the Dark One’s general, but he often missed the days when could simply pillage small human villages, torturing and feasting with his loyal band of followers. Back then, his sheer size and manner had been enough to scare fiends into his service.
Now, Ozzie hadn’t even seen a human in months, and he was having trouble recalling their taste. Human women were the best, having tenderness similar to a child and nearly as much meat as an adult male. Sure, Ozzie could murder an imp or a naga for a similar thrill, but the meat tasted different, and no doubt the rabble would make a fuss.
Ozzie stood before the Dark One’s chamber. There was no reason to knock: he always knew when Ozzie was there. Sometimes the door would open before Ozzie had even reached the door. Sometimes Ozzie had to wait, once as long as half an hour before the huge stone door swung open on its silent hinges. Ozzie had several times tried to figure out what the Dark One was doing in there by pressing his ear to the door or peering into the crack at the floor. He only heard mumbling nonsense, however, and saw only darkness within. The Dark One’s rituals were mysterious and frightening, and it was easy to see why so many fiends seemed to worship him.
Ozzie had his own thoughts on that, which he kept to himself since who knew where words go once they left your mouth. Ozzie often suspected that the fiends were nothing to the Dark One, that they were merely being used as a shield between himself and the humans while he performed his experiments. Ozzie resented the idea, but was in no position to argue.
The door opened after only a minute or so, and Ozzie made his way into the opulent, torchlit chamber. The air was filled with the scent of roses and death that meant the Dark One had been practicing his Art.
Ozzie approached the throne, instantly curious by the Dark One’s expression. The great imp remembered the awkward, unlikable boy he once mistook for a human, and vaguely remembered the delicious look of fear on the boy’s face when the he first appeared in front of Ozzie. That fear lasted moments, however, and had never returned in all the years since that fateful encounter.
The Dark One’s usually impassive, aloof face seemed lively today, as if he was looking forward to something.
“How may I serve you, my lord?” said Ozzie, bowing as best he could over his ample belly.
“Today is a glorious day, Ozzie, is it not?” The Dark One’s usually hard eyes danced with merriment. Ozzie began to wonder if his lord was making a joke at his expense. The Dark One was not entirely without a sense of humor, but it seemed very foreign to Ozzie and often simply left him frustrated and confused.
“I… would say it is as good a day as any, my lord.”
“Nonsense, Ozzie. Today is a glorious day. Would you like to know why this is a glorious day, my friend?”
Ozzie bowed once again. “I would be most honored if you would enlighten me, O Dark One.” Where was this leading?
The Dark One grinned. It was an odd sight, and Ozzie was unnerved. He wiped the oily sweat from his smooth scalp, more self-conscious than usual under the Dark One’s gaze today.
“Tell me of your great plan, Ozzie. I would hear it from your mouth, instead of through the walls of the fortress.”
Ozzie shivered. Yes, he had a plan. And he had only spoken of it to his reflection, to the mirror in his bedchamber. He had rehearsed the speech time and time again to present it at the proper moment, but still hadn’t been certain if or when he would ever bring it up at all. Apparently the time had come, and the choice had been taken away from him.
For a moment, Ozzie’s resentment was overpowering. How dare the Dark One infiltrate my chamber and spy on me? But Ozzie’s sense of self-preservation overcame his temper, as it had so many times before.
He took a deep breath.
“Well, my lord, as you already know, the humans have been spreading into our lands for quite some time. I fear that our people are at risk.” Ozzie started carefully, but soon got caught up in his speech. He looked the Dark One directly in the eyes, and pounded a fist into his other hand for good measure. “We must halt their advances. We should take back what is rightfully ours and teach these conquerors the error of their ways. If we start now, we can… organize…”
Ozzie’s speech fell flat in the face of the Dark One’s roaring laughter. What was so funny? Ozzie fell silent, staring dumbfounded at his master until the laughing ceased. The Dark One did not laugh long—he never did—but the sound of it rang in Ozzie’s ears and about the chamber long afterward, it seemed.
“Don’t speak to me like one of your groveling subjects, my crafty friend,” said the Dark One, finally. “I know your past, as does every one of the commanders you trusted enough to leave alive since the old days. Since before me. The lands the humans have taken from fiendkind were taken from humans a generation before. Fiendish bandits raid human villages, slaughtering their children and raping their women at every opportunity. Your own lusts are well-known to me, imp. Now tell me your plan in truth, else I’ll sever your tongue.”
Ozzie was being made the fool, but the Dark One was right. The speech had always been meant for the minions, not for those in his circle of trust. But the Dark One was neither of those. At times he seemed the most ruthless of all fiends, while other times he seemed too human by half.
However, Ozzie did not doubt for a moment that the Dark One would sever his tongue as promised. Ozzie was quite attached to his tongue. He was fond of talking, and doubly fond of eating.
“Well, my lord, if you know my mind so well, then you know my plan and my view of humans. They are pathetic creatures, weak and soft. I would see half of them enslaved, and the other half butchered. They seek to rule the world, and I aim to rule it first. I would wage war on the humans, my lord. I would topple their kingdoms and raze their cities before they grow too powerful.” Ozzie held the Dark One’s gaze through the entire explanation, then held his breath during the silence that followed. He was deathly afraid he may have left something out, that the Dark One would have his tongue anyway, but instead his lord only nodded.
Ozzie resumed breathing.
“Your ambitions reach high, Ozzie. We have great numbers, but we will not be able to take the kingdoms of men alone.”
Ozzie was almost sick of feeling dumbfounded, but if the Dark One was saying what Ozzie believed he was saying… “Do you mean that you will help us?”
The Dark One shook his head. “I will, but that is not what I’m getting at. After many long years of research and clairvoyance, I have found the location where I can summon the greatest power that ever lived. We must conquer that place and make it our own. From there you will lead the fiendish armies in my name while I attempt to summon this being.”
Ozzie was amazed. He had no idea what the Dark One had been doing up until now. To think that such a thing would exist… If anyone could summon such a creature, it was the Dark One.
“Will such a being truly assist in the enslavement of the humans, my lord?”
The Dark One smiled a strange, almost wistful smile. “No creature is as experienced at enslaving humans as this one. When it comes forth, the kingdoms of men shall fall.”

(Continued in Chapter 2, Part 2.)

No comments:

Post a Comment