Chapter 2: Birth of the Lord Minions

For those who possess the magic of Auramastery, the Scrying Pool allows them to see far and wide across the three Realms of the Watershed. But to a lucky few, blessed with unknown magic, that same pool grants the ability to see across time and even, on a handful of privileged occasions, into the hearts of other beings.
-Wysteerin Hallowayn, Sylvan Bard

As the other gods flew away into the heavens, Dassadec allowed his beating Heart of Darkblood to tie him down. Power surged and raced through his vast dark being, tearing and buffeting at his connection to the world.

But this had also been part of his plan. The god channeled that power upward towards the summit of his mountain, focusing it ever tighter in the direction it seemed determined to pull Dassadec himself. With a force of concentration deeper and more powerful than that of any sorcerer, he resisted that pull and wove the twisting, lashing ropes of magic into a spell subject to his own will.

On six great hill-sized stones around the vast, open crater of Agath-Trol's summit, the magic took form under Dassadec's sinister artistic will. Swirling clouds of black power writhed and twisted, settling closely to the flat tops of those massive stones. Condensing from the vapor of smoke to an intense solidity like that of the mountain, the six clouds of magic revealed their ultimate forms as six awesome beings.

The eyes of the six Lord Minions opened in the same instant, glowing orbs of pure red hellfire shot through with streaks of fierce, incandescent gold. Three of the beings spread massive new wings; all of them looked around with expressions of innocent wonder on their newly-awakened faces.

But the concept of innocence was of little concern to their creator. Dassadec allowed his attention to focus on each of his mighty new slaves in turn. He had designed each of them in his mind long since, of course, but he was still very pleased at what he saw now that they had come into being.

The Fist of Dassadec, a great reptilian monster with a goat's head and a stiff, round fin like a single wing jutting straight up from his back, would bear the name of Lord Darkenscale. His black-green scales glinted even in the dim light under the roiling clouds, and the fur and long beard of his fierce head were a deceptively soft gray. His eyes, deep and considering, seemed to look inward as much as out to the view around him.

Dassadec's massive Talon, Lord Minion Reaper, was a great sinuous dragon like a long black snake with vast leathery wings. Unlike a snake, he stood on four powerful legs that ended in keen-clawed feet like an eagle's. Unconscious arrogance was in the curve of his mighty neck, and his crocodile face smiled in pleased satisfaction as he looked around at his peers and at the world.

Lord Nicodareus, massing far less than his two reptilian brothers, still stood with every bit of the same confidence and power. Wings spanning fully three times his height stretched out behind his imposing demon-form, fully black from the horns atop his head to his powerful feet. Dassadec thought that he had done particularly well in the creation of this servant. This one would be called the Eye of Dassadec, with magical Sight that could travel to the farthest corners of the Watershed. But for now, he seemed awestruck enough by the mere ordinary vision of what lay around him. Fierce passion and emotion stared out from his blazing eyes.

Commanding the form of a massive bear, his fur contrasting in smooth ripples between lightest and darkest brown, Lord Karthakan was the Flame of Dassadec. He would control seething powers of fire, blasting to ruin anything that opposed him. Indeed, his entire soul seemed to be filled with the same fire that burned in all six Lord Minions' eyes. He growled in his throat, looking around with a near-visible feeling of eager anticipation that beat outward from him like the heat of his fires.

Lady Balzaracc was a creature whose being contrasted one fierce beauty against another. From the shoulders down she was like her brother Nicodareus but in female form; tall, black, and sleekly muscular. Wings of brown hawk's feathers and tawny gold fur rustled behind her shoulders. Atop those shoulders perched the ferocious tawny head of a lioness, with teeth that could easily rip and kill. But rising from the top of that fur-covered skull was the head of a lovely woman, her skin rosy and pale. An expression of sweet gentleness shone out from that face, and even the burning eyes looked softer and more warmly open than the orbs of her lion-face. Framing her woman's head was a cloud of soft, thick hair that shaded from the palest brown parts of Karthakan's fur to a dusky black where it swirled past her knees. The Wing of Dassadec, it would be her task to fly far and wide across the Watershed, exerting her deadly trickery and paralyzing beauty against many of Dassadec's enemies. Countless Faerines and humans would die, the dark god knew, admiring her slender form or captured by the gaze of her fierce red-gold eyes.

Finally, Dassadec turned his attention to his nightmare Fang. Lord Phalthak also possessed more than one head, six deadly serpent-faces in bold jewel colors rising on long snake necks from the body of a massive gray-white ape. The place where those necks emerged from his body was a cruel, ripped wound that oozed a slow trickle of Phalthak's Darkblood. Dassadec was pleased by this; he could, of course, have created a smooth joining like those of his other Lord Minions whose bodies combined multiple forms, but this arrangement appealed to his innate cruelty. Besides, it would provide him with an easy means of bestowing on his Fang the additional serpent heads that would be needed in the future. Now, hissing and twining their necks around each other, Phalthak's six young faces all craned to see as much of the world as they could in every direction.

Yes, the Sleepstealer thought, the Lord Minions had been a very successful creation. Welcome, my children. Dassadec's voice was a silent rumble of power, spoken directly to the minds of his slaves.

As one, the Lord Minions fell to the ground on their faces. They recognized the voice of their lord without being told. "Master!" they cried together. "Tell us your commands, and we will obey!"

Your obedience pleases me, the dark god replied. I will have many commands for you. But you must know that there is a cost if you should ever fail in serving me.

Shocked, Nicodareus looked up. His demon face was the picture of commitment and faith, barely seeming to register the concept that Dassadec's words had been a threat. "Master, we would not -" But the winged lord never finished speaking his assurance of loyalty.

Here is the cost, Dassadec told them in a voice gone harsh and cruel as the bitter stone far beneath his mountain fortress. Learn it well.

Dassadec sent a black wave of pain crashing outward to envelop the spirits of his Lord Minions. Their bodies were not harmed, of course - why destroy what he had just created? - but he knew that they all suffered agony like a person consumed by fire or acid.

A feeling of surprise and stunned dismay struck Dassadec from all their minds. Having lived for such a short time, they could not possibly have imagined a torture like this. Of course, even this detail had also been part of the Sleepstealer's plan. He smiled to himself in the depths of his cruel heart. The total unexpectedness of this agony, one of their first memories, would leave a very useful scar on their hearts.

Already lying flat on the tops of their great stone perches, their bodies twisted and then clenched in searing anguish. The six great beings did not cry out in their pain. They had not been made in a way that would allow them to easily protest against any action of their master. But the harsh angles of their locked, frozen bodies showed their suffering.

Dassadec watched them for a time in satisfaction, reflecting with pleasure on the power he held over even these mighty creatures. But after only a few moments he released them from their agony. The impression it made on them would be deeper, he knew, if the duration were not very long.

The Sleepstealer looked into his children's hearts and understood that the Lord Minions knew their pain had lasted only a very short time. He knew, too, that they were very much aware that he could have made their suffering much longer if he chose.

You may all rise, he told the six of them. Slowly, their minds still shaken by their brief torment, his slaves obeyed.

Looking at his children, Dassadec knew that his purpose had been accomplished. The newborn Lord Minions now looked out at their world through eyes that held not only wonder, but also a deep, abject fear which they would never forget.

- from The Great Betrayal, by Wysteerin Hallowayn