Prologue – Demise of Kings
Laughter penetrated the halls and tunnels, laughter of the mad, laughter of the deceased. Where only minutes earlier battle cries and the agonizing screams of the dying had reigned, only the maniac laughter would now be heard. Victory had been claimed and had caused the madness to come forth, the madness of the famed Nameless keeper. It was he who had been causing the caverns to echo and tremble with his mere voice. From the very heart of his dungeon to the portal of light his voice was ever present, the head of the mighty king Reginald that had foiled evil's plans for centuries in his hands. Victory… none of his minions dared interfere, and even the reaper himself showed in face of this keeper's triumph. At last, the underworld had been claimed, and with it all portal gems.
The darkness could no longer hold him, he knew that.
"Finally… sunlight… fresh air… warmth…"
The Nameless One muttered as he walked slowly towards the portal to the above world. A march of the victorious, and it was one he enjoyed to its greatest extent. It was after all the moment he had worked for since he first was awoken by the Horned Reaper who had sensed his potential. Goblins hailed his name, Dark Angels worshipped his work and even mistresses covered in fear when facing his wrath. The impossible had been achieved with the blow that had separated the very head he still held. It was a trophy never to be given up and a symbol of ultimate control. As he walked on further throughout the corridors he decided that this skull should be kept secure by the very ones it had brought forth; Felix, Balder and Tristram, the king's sons whom he had captured and turned into his own generals as vampires.
"After all, who would be better suited for the task?" he thought. "Or what do you say, my dear Reginald? Wouldn't you be glad to be reunited with your offspring?"
Grinning he stared into the glassy eyes of the separated body part, its mouth still gapping and covered in the dried blood that had run out from it. The warrior who had landed the fatal blow would earn a position amongst his generals, thus he decided. As unlikely it seemed, it had been a goblin of all creatures, but maybe it made sense… what other being could have been underestimated so fatally?
The laughter had long since subsided and his voice, silent as he spoke, echoed towards every living being left on the field of battle. Striding across the bridge that led to Reginald's old stronghold a group of Black Knights met him and kneeled as soon they became aware of his presence. Fools, but they had proven useful to him. Battle had left its marks on them; bloodied swords, broken armours and wounds that could still cost them their lives if they were not tended to. All but one knight bore these. He stopped.
"Rise, warriors" They obeyed his order. "You have fought well…"
The men clad in dark metal lowered their heads in respect.
"What I cannot help but wonder…" he directed his attention towards the unharmed knight "is why you seem to be unharmed. Warrior, tell me."
The knight seemed at unease, and rightfully so. He knew that no keeper was keen of cowardess, and that his master could be unforgiving.
"My… my lord... I, I was unable to reach the enemies quickly enough… the battle was over before I met it" As he replied, his armour trembled. As did he within it.
"So you were not with your brethren as they fought in the front lines…" He concluded. The knight started breathing unsteady, fear ridden eyes behind the visor of his helmet, but he did not dare speak out against his master. After short silence the clang of metal hitting stone echoed. The keeper looked towards the cause and found one of the more severely injured knights had collapsed onto all four. He coughed, and blood dripped out underneath the helmet.
"You on the other hand fought bravely, even if perhaps foolishly" Gaze now upon the mortally wounded knight.
A grin spread across the Keeper's face, and he waved his head through the air towards the wounded band, particularly the one about to die. Silence spread among them. The band clearly knew the healing powers that Keepers wielded, but hadn't ever expected to see such magic used for other reasons then that of allowing sustained torture.
"Feel your strength return, steady yourself. I have a task for you" The hooded keeper spoke. "You will take this, my most valuable trophy and bring it to the princes. There you shall guard it along with them and know the splendour life has to offer. As for you…" he turned towards the untouched knight "I will need means by which to prove who sent this group. Turn around and kneel."
The knight hesitated, but obeyed. Soon his screams ripped through the air as the keeper begun melting the armour on his back into glyphs, forming a living letter. "Your shame is forever burnt into your skin, along with my orders… you will know death and an eternity as a fleshless guard. Go now and rest before you proceed to Butterscotch, and take this wretch with you"
The other knights more dragged then bore their tortured comrade as they walked off towards the lair. Again alone, the keeper returned to his path. It was not long before he started to walk across the bloodied tiles where both heroes and his servants had died. Some corpses still remained, but the imps had long since started bringing the dead to the graveyard. Not for burial, no… but to call forth vampires. Even in face of ultimate victory resources should not be wasted. Pride is what had cost his greatest rival, Nemesis, his life. As long he himself resided in this hell of a world he would not rest or in any other way leave his remaining opponents a chance, no matter how few or how weak they were.
He could imagine its beauty and how he would claim it as his own. As he turned around the last corner of his path, light shone from a not too distant chamber. Along the way Dark Angles kneeled, an honour they usually only showed the dark gods themselves. A smile spread across his face. At the end of his path lay the portal to the above world, radiating with pure, white light. Horny, the horned reaper, stood next to it. With a short bow the giant creature with flaming red flesh welcomed his chosen master. He bore the same smile of satisfaction, not unlike that of the hooded keeper. As the two met, the demon stretched out his arm to reveal what he was holding; the final portal gem, the last key required.
"May the honour be yours, my friend…" the scythe wielding giant spoke. This respect not even the keeper had expected. He knew that a Horniculus, such as Horny, hailed none. Their allegiance was earned by display of might, and even then their temper was infamous. It was the best one could do to have them fight on ones own side, but this was unthinkable.
The keeper chuckled, and then burst into laughter. Apparently that was what the demon had been aiming at, for he too began laughing. Their kind truly was unpredictable, but didn't lack a sense of humour, no matter how twisted it was.
As soon they were done, the keeper carefully removed the gem from Horny's hand, still unsure whether the later had been joking or not. He then proceeded to place the gem along with the others in the sphere that was crafted to hold them. Within it they floated in the air, it seemed. Once the last gem had aligned itself with the others, they pulsed and gave off bright blue, brilliant light. As the light grew stronger, so did the rumbling that slowly began to fill the caverns, and the doors that were the last barrier between above and below started to part.
"You've proven to be the worthy of my aid it turned out. Something not many can claim of themselves and live"
This time he knew the demon was not joking, for it was equally much a threat as it was a compliment. Impatience was written into his face, as he displayed his jabbing yellow teeth the way he usually did. "Let's see to it that the world beyond this point knows so as well"
"We will, in due time. Let us now bathe in the glory of our triumph." He replied as he stepped forward in an ever steady gait towards the opened pathway. Stepping into the light he beheld the ancient forces at work that brought up. Everything grew bright white around him and he embraced the spell that linked the portal to the sunlit realm. When the light subsided he needed some moments to adjust his vision. Above him, far above him, were tiny white lights in a dark sky. The space around him was vast. Nothing a life in endless corridors and dug-out-halls ever hinted to be possible. The land around him was green and lush, except for the altar he was standing on. It was an amazing sight for one who had lived his life only in dungeons. Just as soon he finished marvelling the sky, another bright flash of light appeared out of nowhere behind him before it too disappeared forever. Whirling around he wished to greet the reaper, but was met by nothing. Wondering what was going on, a small reflection from the ground caught his attention. It was nothing other then a portal gem. Not any portal gem, for it was flawed and its brilliance had begun to fade. This was the very first portal gem that had been passed into his possession.
"What in the name of…" his words were cut off by of a silent whistle and a following thud. Directing his vision downward he gazed upon a wooden shaft embedded in his chest. Without even wincing he grabbed it and ripped it out, and just as soon as he did another two followed the first.
"Imbeciles… you shall burn…" Trying to focus his magic, but the spells would not yield to his will. He realized; this far away from his domain's magical heart he was without power. Another arrow struck him, this one in the shoulder. Making a step forward soon a fifth joined its brethren and hit his stomach. With the pain growing greater he could no longer stand upright.
"The gem… you planned this all along… you wanted me without power, without servants…" Another three arrows whistled through the night.
"The portal will reopen… somehow evil will find a way… you will pay…" His mind whirled around. The darkness of night and the darkness of his thoughts became the same. He heard the silent thud of a falling body, his body. Then everything faded away as he lost consciousness.