DUNGEON KEEPER:

I Came, I Saw, I Slaughtered

1

Where no Keeper has gone before...

Asmodeus and Brachus stared with interest, and above all bewilderment, at the array of tapestries hanging on the office wall. The Keeper stood by patiently, it's insubstantial arms folded, fingers drumming. The Mentors could detect that the patience that was present a short while ago was wearing very thin.
"It's intriguing, Master," Asmodeus said politely.
"And?" said the Keeper, raising a metaphorical eyebrow.
"Well," said Brachus, "Isn't it a bit...well..."
The Keeper leaned forward, it's eyes stopping inches from Brachus' own. "Mmm?"
"Dangerous," said Asmodeus, "Is what my learned friend is trying to say."
"That's as may be," said the Keeper, it's dual voice echoing in the chamber. It picked up a Dwarf's ribcage that Brachus had been using as a parchment rack. "But it is necessary. If it's one thing that being a Keeper has taught me, it's that no-one should be paymaster to a fat, bored, lazy army. Because if you are..."
The Keeper slowly and deliberately crushed the ribcage. "Then the odds are stacked much more heavily against you during an assault."
"But, Master," implored Asmodeus, "There have been no incursions from the humans above since the defeat of Brandicor six months ago. And now that you are a living entity in your own right, surely..."
But the Keeper interrupted. "Ah, I may be a living entity, but I still rely on the Dungeon Heart for my lifeforce, even though I can move a great distance from it. It would be foolhardy of me to assume that I could withstand a large assault from a massed rebellion of surface dwellers. If enough of them got in and destroyed the Heart, they would also destroy me."
"So why do you want to leave?" said Brachus, "Surely the army of undead that you have amassed alone could crush any opposition. Never mind the hordes of Goblins and Trolls that have rallied to your cause."
"Having troops is all very well," said Asmodeus, "But I see the Keeper's point. If a battalion of fighters got in here with a whole chapter of the local holy orders, they could lay waste to all the Vampires we have in an instant, and our advantage would be lost."
Brachus nodded. "So we have no other option."
The Keeper nodded. "We have seen the Uplanders start to turn towards their churches, chapels and monasteries for guidance in these troubled times. It's only a matter of time before a crusade is launched against me."
Asmodeus looked once more at the tapestries. The arcane script that was scribbled on them was the work of a madman. A genius, there is no doubt, but a madman nonetheless. He shook his head. "Very well, Master. It shall be done. But I should warn you that the Warlocks will probably be killed if they perform this ritual."
"A sacrifice is sometimes necessary, Asmodeus," hissed the Keeper. "Besides, I cannot take any of them with me."
Asmodeus smiled faintly. "True, Master. Very true."
Brachus started taking the tapestries down. "I shall take these to the library and make the necessary preparations."
"Good," said the Keeper. It turned from it's Mentors and left the office.
"I don't like it!" said Brachus. "It's an unnecessary waste!"
"That's all right," said Asmodeus, "Because you're not coming with us anyway."
Brachus glared at his colleague. "What?"
"You're staying here and guarding the home roost. The Keeper has decided to trust my judgment on these matters as I seem to be the only one of us that has demonstrated any support for this scheme."
Brachus' face reddened considerably as he became more an more flustered. "I can't believe I'm hearing this! I have served Calisto faithfully these many years, and I will not see our partnership jeopardised!"
"Partnership? We are servants, pure and simple, Brachus. I would have thought you'd have learnt that by now." Asmodeus reached into his robe and pulled out a dagger. "But, alas, I'm afraid you never will."
Brachus, a surprisingly speedy man for his bulk, cast the tapestries aside and ran screaming at Asmodeus, hatred boiling in his veins. "I never liked you, you conniving bastard!" He grabbed Asmodues' wrist and tried to twist the dagger's blade towards the belly of its wielder.
"The feeling is mutual," replied Asmodeus with a slight strain in his voice. Brachus was very strong, his weight lending him a considerable advantage.
They wheedled around the room in this fashion for some time, knocking over chairs, crashing into the desk, sending quills and inkpots flying in all directions. This confrontation had been coming for a long time, and it showed in every twitching muscle on the combatants faces, every bead of sweat that slid from their brows.
Asmodeus managed a kick on Brachus' shin, but he was overbalanced, landing in a heap underneath his large opponent. The dagger skittered across the floor, going underneath the desk. Brachus clamped his hands tightly round Asmodeus' throat and squeezed. The Mentor's eyes bulged out of their sockets as he gasped for breath.
"Goodbye, Asmodeus," said Brachus triumphantly, "See you in Hell."
Suddenly, there was a thud, and Brachus stiffened. A muffled cry escaped his trembling lips and he collapsed on top of Asmodeus once more. A pick-axe was protruding from Brachus' back.
Asmodeus managed to slide out from under the huge body and saw an Imp standing behind it. It saluted proudly, retrieved it's pick-axe, and scurried off into the corridor.
The Mentor got shakily to his feet and made a mental note not to kick that particular Imp. He looked down at the body. Poor, foolish Brachus. Did he not know when his time was up? He obviously never understood dungeon politics. Survival of the fittest was the name of the game, and if that meant sucking up to the boss to get a promotion, then you could not allow yourself to show an inch of pride or ingratitude.
"I see the best man won," said the Keeper's disembodied voice.
Asmodeus calmly picked up the tapestries, rolling them together. "As my late colleague was saying, sir, I will take these to the library and make the necessary preparations."
"Very good, Asmodeus." The Keeper fell silent.
Asmodeus smiled and walked briskly along the corridors. He marched past the squeals of delight coming from the torture chamber. Now was not the time for a spot of voyeurism.
His journey took him through a massive lair chamber, where all manner of creatures cohabited in a rather tenuous show of allegiance. Bile Demons glanced sideways at the Goblins who occupied several beds close by. A troop of skeletons marched through, ignoring the angry cries of the Bile Demons. Warlocks were snoozing on their thrones, fidgeting restlessly as their dreams turned into thoughts of the Vampires that dwelt in a separate lair elsewhere in the complex.
Asmodeus left the lair behind and entered the library, self-appointed home of the leader of the Warlocks, Grell. The one-time Wizard of the Uplanders and right-hand man to Avatar Brandicor looked up when he heard the Mentor enter.
"Ah, Asmodeus. How good of you to drop by. What brings you here?"
"The trans-dimensional gateway."
"Oh. That nonsense again. You know what it could do to everyone."
"My Master is well aware of the risks, Grell, however he knows that Brandicor was working on it just before he died. And you and Melkum were the only ones who would have known how to put it together." Asmodeus stepped very slowly towards Grell, his eyes hooded and menacing. "We have been good to you up until now. Let's not spoil it. Hmm?"