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My Lustrian Undead Stories

Mar 6, 2012
I have expanded this thread to include all of my primary Vampire based fluff pieces. For my Lizardmen fluff, look here.

Count Renliss' Journey to Lustria: Part One

The plan to redirect the meddlesome witch hunters towards the Lhamia holdings backfired. Now two of their own thralls were dead by the witch hunters’ hand. Worse, the Lhamia were aware of the betrayal and were most displeased. Elaine’s undead hordes were arranging themselves for battle while Renliss did likewise with his own forces. His sire watched disinterestedly, showing no sign of worry about the battle nor upset over his failed manipulations. Finally, he spoke.

“Our forces are about the same size, but Elaine is relying too heavily on zombies, our warriors outclass theirs on the whole. This battle will be short.”

From their view on the hill overlooking the assembling troops, saw the Lahmian lines parting to allow a figure on a nightmare riding towards the front lines.

“Elaine never led from the front lines before….she detests doing actual fighting herself….she’s up to something order the attack now.”

As the front lines converged, Elaine pulled a snake headed staff of Nehekaran origin from her cloak and raised it high. All of the skeletons in the front ranks of Renliss’ force nearest to Elaine buckled and swayed. After a moment, they calmly walked forward and insinuated themselves into the Lahmian lines. Everywhere Elaine rode the opposing skeletons defected towards her side as if Renliss’ control meant nothing. He could sense his sire was using all of his concentration just to keep the Grave Guard following his orders but they could not hold against the superior number of skeletons and zombies swarming them…Renliss watched as the wight holding his sire’s standard was pulled from his steed…

Week One in Lustria

“Master you must wake up immediately!”
“How dare you wake me peasant!”

Renliss was secretly relieved to have his vivid reverie reliving his worst defeat cut short. He did not like dreaming about the battle that eventually led to his exile. He couldn’t let his thrall know that. It could lead Mordrek to believe he could disrespect him.

“Master, we are under attack!”
“We haven’t even landed yet, who could be attacking us?”

A small cannon ball burst through the wall of his cabin, then collided with the opposite wall making a large dent in the wall of his cabin. Renliss groaned and sleepily clambered out of his coffin. He peered through the new impromptu “window” in his cabin to see a small ship, beyond which the shores of Lustria occupying the whole Horizon. He extended his lifesight to try to get a clue on who was attacking them. He focused on the blurry auras visible at a distance and estimated how many human sized beings were likely on the ship.

“Did you wake my sire yet?”

The necromancer winced.

“I…was hoping…you could master” Mordrek replied nervously. Renliss bristled inside.

He knew his sire was far more powerful than him, but he still wished for his thrall to fear him with the same intensity as his sire.

“No point in waking him for something this minor, there aren’t even a score of men on that ship. A skeleton crew….metaphorically speaking.”

Renliss dispatched his fell bats to examine the ship and extended his power to see through the creature’s eyes. Tilean ship, only one cannon but the ship was nimble enough to sail circles around the stolen Imperial cargo ship that the vampires were using letting them circle them over and over again till the one cannon took them down. The Tilean ship was only nimble when the helmsman wasn’t being ripped into pieces by giant bats anyway. The battle was short.

Renliss’ sire was fairly uninterested in the prisoners and Renliss could speak Tilean, so Renliss had full autonomy for interrogating them. Back during his breathing days, Renliss served the Empire in their border regions where he was forced to work with Tilean mercenaries fairly often. Thus, he was given full autonomy to set the terms for their newest living subjects. Currently the Tileans were the vampires only living subjects. The Tileans had no need to know that their ancestral lands were stolen by the Lahmians. Renliss released the ship’s wounded ship’s captain from his temporary Mesmer.

“Your ship’s captain informed me that after the leaders and your sponsors take their cut. Your share is one third of all spoils split evenly between yourselves and the fellow members of your expedition already exploring the jungles looking for lizard gold.”

The Tileans nodded nervously not expecting the vampire to open up talking about money.

“You are mercenaries. I wish to hire you. If you join my expedition willingly and obey my orders, you will receive the same third of our spoils, but you will not have to share it with the fellow members of your new expedition, on account that the current members of my expedition didn’t ask for any pay.”

Renliss gestured at the skeletons brandishing weapons at the surrounded Tileans. He was willing to let them keep all of if it, but he figure they’d be suspicious if the terms were too good. Well more suspicious anyway.

“Either way you are taking your ship. If you don’t choose to join our expedition, you get to join our ship’s skeleton crew.”

Renliss pointed at Mordrek. The dead Tileans piled within sight of the captives rose from their feet and the flesh fell off their bones.

“Serve us willingly for the expedition and not only live, but return home rich. Oppose us and you will serve us eternally, with no pay and no chance of seeing your homes ever again.”

The captain though unable to stand, worked up the strength to laugh defiantly.

“What a generous offer! To allow us the freedom to be worked to death over several weeks before you add us to your undead horde!”

The captain punctuated his last sentence by pulling the concealed pistol he probably believed Renliss didn’t know about. Renliss knew what was coming. The captain’s reflexes were slowed by the blood loss from his leg wound. After sidestepping the clumsy shot, Renliss proceeded to rip the pistol from his hand and beat him to unconsciousness with it. Then he drained him of his remaining blood and instructed Mordrek to imprison his soul in a jar. Renliss calmly turned towards the other prisoners as if he merely had a minor argument with captain.

“Anyone else refuse my offer?”

* * * * * *

Renliss gathered what information he could from his new subjects. The captured Tileans were original part of a much larger expedition that landed a few weeks prior. They were left behind to guard the ship while the rest of their expedition sought Lizardman gold. The Tileans saw what they thought was a large ship with rival treasure hunting expedition. A ship with no guns that they thought they could bring down easily, thus eliminating the competition before it arrived. The Tileans were not expecting it to be filled with the undead. The ship they were using was stolen from Empire traders. Renliss’ sire insisted on traveling incognito instead the stereotypical husk of floating corpses that vampires never really used for long voyages and just used for shock value. Renliss and his sire agreed that the Tilean ship was a vast improvement on their hastily stolen ship, and it was nice to have functional cannon on their side.

The Tileans were instructed to make a wagon to be pull the cannon through the jungle and repair the two ships. They also needed to prepare wagons for supplies, both for the living and the dead. Originally they only planned to haul the accoutrements the snobbish vampires felt they couldn’t live without. With living mercenaries, they now had to pack food and drink for their new troops, an inconvenience the vampires detested. What few skeletal horses they had left would all be needed to pull supplies. All the construction was to be done under the theoretically capable of supervision of Modrek. Renliss had a lower opinion of Modrek’s cunning than his sire did. His sire seemed to have become reckless after their defeat at the hands of the Lahmians. Renliss publicly instructed the skeletons left behind to kill all humans in sight if Mordrek was died. That dissuaded the Tileans from trying anything.

Renliss bloodline was known for being able to see the auras of the living known as lifesense. Renliss could even follow the spiritual trail left by a human aura’s passing to track someone miles in the barrens of Sylvania. Lustria’s jungles were too rich with life for Renliss’ power to work with that level of finesse. Too many scurrying critters with their own small auras created “noise” interfering with his ability to find anything useful in the teeming jungles. His sire could track humans down though. Using a combination of information from the Tileans on the ship, his own more refined lifesense, and undead tracking hounds, the vampires’ forces were able to locate the rest of the Tilean expedition. Renliss thought it was risky bringing the Tileans from the ship with them, but his sire said it would test their loyalty.

The plan was simple. Surround their camp while the bulk of them were sleep, kill the sentries with magic and surround the rest. The skeleton swords pointed at their throats rudely awakening them would hopefully get a speedy surrender. One of the Tileans from the ship decided to complicate things though. He shouted a warning to the sleepers after the sentries were dispatched. This turned a surefire surprise attack into a desperate melee. Most of the Tileans couldn’t get their full armor and armaments in time, but they managed to bring a few skeletons down before being slain. Those in the center of the camp were able to get all their gear and mobilize into a desperate circle. The survivors of the camp were rallying around their paychest completely surrounded. They had their pikes and crossbows at the ready. Their desperate faces showing equal odds of either surrendering or fighting to the death.

“For the benefit of those I’m meeting for the first time, my name Count Renliss. I don’t know what your name is boy, but your attempt to save you comrades failed spectacularly. If my plan went off without a hitch most of your friends would have been taken alive and be given the same generous offer you received. Now most of them are dead and since they resisted me in life, they will have to serve me in death. You will fare far worse then that.”

The Tilean who gave the warning, now restrained by four skeletons, let loose a pathetic whimper.

“Mordrek take him out a ways, but not too far. I want everyone present to be able to hear you at work.” Renliss added quietly.

Renliss waited till screams could be heard in the distance before continuing with his new captives.

“You’ve done well guarding your paychest. I am not seeking your paychest’s treasure, I am seeking the Lizard’s treasure. If you assist me you will get a fair share. The paychest will have more treasure in it than you would have otherwise received.”

Renliss paused to let more screams from Mordrek’s victim reach them.

“An unintended benefit of your side’s unfortunate losses is that you now have fewer men to share your treasure with. You can see that those who willingly serve me are treated well”

The paymaster motioned for the men to put away their weapons.

“Very well. Men, please excuse me while I negotiate the particulars of our contract with our new employer here. With your permission of course, your Excellency.”

The thinly veiled defiance shrouded in politesse amused him. The boldness to set terms from a position of weakness impressed him. Renliss saw his old living self’s mannerisms before him and smiled inwardly.

* * * * * *

“Almost two hours of negotiating rates, I think we stop beating around the bush your Excellency.”
“We’ve been dancing around two things. First, you promised not to turn those who serve you into undead, but you never promised to let us go home, you just vaguely insinuated it. Second, you never told me what you want”
“I want the assistance of your men in gaining the treasures of the Lizardmen”
“Your haggling was just for show. I know you didn’t sail this far for gold. I think I can help you get whatever you really want. In exchange, I’d like some assurance to let myself and a few other survivors return home. Now tell me what you want?”
“Not all treasure glitters, Antonio.”
Last edited:
Mar 6, 2012
Count Renliss' Journey to Lustria: Part Two

Renliss stared over the largest horde of zombies he had ever seen. Both he and his sire traditionally avoided zombies and ghouls in favor of skeletons. Elaine had wrested control of nearly all of their skeletons by this point. Now skeletons were a liability. Renliss was livid.

“I can’t believe Elaine got the Staff of Heirenhotep! According to legend, the Tomb Kings have hunted down and slain every vampire foolish enough to try to use it.”
“Unless the Nehekarians decide to smite her in the next few days, we will need the zombies to cover our retreat. We have to follow my plan--”
“If the Empire wasn’t so occupied with the greenskins and everything else, they could crush us all! We should be working WITH the Lahmians, not against them.”
“The Lahmians won’t stop till we are locked underground like common vargheists!”
you sent the witch hunters after them!”
“How dare you talk to me that way childe! If we don’t carry out this plan the Lahmians will take everything we have left.”
“What DO we have left, sire? All our peasants either swore fealty to the Lahmians or have been turned into these pathetic shambling--things! You haven’t told me your plan. You may be my sire, but I’m not a fledgling in anymore. You can’t expect me to apply scorched earth to our holdings and not be curious what your mysterious grand plan is.”
“I thought I could handle any vampiric rival with enough soldiers and tactical acumen. I’ve been neglecting my magical development for too long. I’ve noticed I’ve had magic abilities augmented weeks each time I drank the blood of neonate wizard….”
“The Necarchs have been barking up that tree for centuries….you yourself told me that when that one got the blood of the elder wizard from Hoeth. The payoff was both very small and very temporary”
“If a fraction of the stories are true, the rulers of the Lizard creatures of Lustria make the elders of Hoeth look as mystically weak as the matron in the village…making charms to repel the undead” He smirked derisively towards one of the newer zombified women still wearing a talisman necklace meant to ward off the undead.
“You want us to leave our lands to chase a fanciful legend.”
“The staff of Heirenhotep was a fanciful legend too, and it has crushed us. We are out of non-fanciful options”

Week Six in Lustria

“Wake up Renliss, we are wasting time!”

Renliss couldn’t remember a single instance where he woke up after his sire in Sylvannia. In Lustria, he seemed to wake up first every evening. In addition, where once he rarely dreamed about past memories, now it seemed he couldn’t sleep without reliving the events that led him to this forsaken jungle. Despite the fact that the Tileans claimed to have been harried by Lizards wielding poisonous darts repeatedly, neither Tilean or undead have caught the sight of so much as a clawed footprint in mud. Renliss would have liked to say that wandering around the jungle WAS wasting time, but he knew better than to express his true feelings to his sire.

“My apologies, sire.”
“I wasn’t sure yesterday, but now my senses are clear. A large army is moving towards us. They should be on us in a few hours. I can sense very large creatures among them, it must be the lizards and not another human expedition. Remember the toad-like beings are the target, if one is leading the force we need to take it down spilling as little of its blood as possible.”

Renliss was losing more respect for his sire every day. He wanted to remind his sire that he was briefed on all the lore his sire knew on the so-called Slann dozens of times over the past six months.

“Of course sire, we won’t waste a drop of the Slann’s blood.”
“Give the Tileans their weapons back and tell them to set up the cannon in that clearing. Then form the rest into a firing line with their crossbows…and tell your thrall to reanimate the scouts”
“What scouts?”

The ancient vampire turned his head to the side and flicked his wrist casually towards the tree line. Six formerly camouflaged forms melded out of the foliage, clearly visible now that their flesh was blackening in death.

“Look with your lifesense, not your eyes, childe.”

The battle lines were formed. The Tileans were well positioned to shoot in any direction. The undead were positioned around both to protect the missile troops from enemy charges while simultaneously making sure the humans didn’t flee from their vampire masters during the battle. Renliss didn’t normally have ranged support in his army, and he didn’t want to lose this rare resource. Also, he figured the undead would be a good buffer against the tiny poison darts the Tileans talked about. What’s deadly poison to humans should no affect on a corpse.

Renliss was to direct the bulk of their forces, so his sire could concentrate on enemy wizards. Renliss didn’t like being chided about his senses like a newly turned fledgling, but he tightened his focus as suggested. He could sense several of the smaller Lizardmen similar to the scouts that came in earlier coming at the right flank while the bulk of the enemy army was hitting the front, some with auras so mighty, they would make ogres look small. He tried not to picture what lizard creatures that massive might look like.

The skinks were surprised to be facing a volley of crossbow bolts after emerging from the foilage. Renliss was more surprised by what the skinks did. They fired their tiny darts at the nearest skeletons. Very few of the darts hit with enough force to penetrate bone, but each skeleton that was hit was rendered into an inert pile of bones. The necromantic bindings to the vampires dissolved in an instant. Realizing the darts weren’t harmless, Renliss redirected his Fell Bats to keep the skirmishing Lizardmen occupied. The bigger threat was still from the front lines and he couldn’t afford to deal with the skirmishers personally.

A line of Saurus charged the front lines at the same time and Renliss saw what could make such a large auras as two Stegadons thundered into the undead line. Renliss was livid as he saw the Stegadons crunching skeletons into the forest floor. He turned to the Tileans and shouted.

“Forget the smaller Lizards, shoot the cannon at the horned beasts!”
“But the warriors in front…” a Tilean stammered.
“You have my permission to shoot through the damn skeletons!”

Renliss saw his sire was even more furious, abandoning his position, he unfurled his wings and flew forward towards the enemy lines cutting a swath of destruction through the Saurus warriors.

“There is no Slann here! The Lizard spellcaster I sense is so weak, even your stupid thrall could hold it off without help. About all he’s doing his disrupting my lifesight. Who is leading these scaly vermin?….The disruption—its hiding a flanking force!”

The approach of the flanking force was unheard due to the din of battle at first, but now thunderous footsteps were audible to all. A bellowing roar from a titanic beast let all know who was leading the force, and it was not a Slann. A massively muscled Saurus on a titanic primeval beast strode forward in the flanked by dozens of Cold One riders. They proceeded to tear up skeletons with even greater efficiency than the Stegadons. Renliss saw his sire disengage from the nearly obliterated Saurus unit he was fighting to fly at the enemy general in a greater fury than Renliss had ever seen.

Renliss wasn’t sure if his sire could handle the enemy general and the beast but knew better than to interfere, so he turned his attention back to the front line. After the cannon wounds, the Stegadons were finally dropping, finished off by the ceaseless volleys of crossbow bolts from the Tileans. The Cold Ones on the flank were pressing rapidly towards the center though. Renliss decided that was where his attention was needed.

“Mordrek release the hosts!”
“They aren’t fully bound yet master!” the necromancer replied…as if Renliss didn’t know that!
“Just do it!”

Mordrek released his jar of souls towards the Cold One riders while Renliss followed to attack any cavalry that slipped by. The sprits were doing an admirable job taking down the lizards but Renliss saw an especially ferocious looking one wielding an obsidian blade shrouded by blue flame shredding every spirit within reach. If my sire is dueling the enemy general, it’s only fitting I duel the general’s second. Renliss chopped the head off a Cold One approaching and then disemboweled it’s rider, finally he got the lieutenant’s attention. The Scar Veteran noticed the only non-incorporeal being approaching him. They made eye contact. Despite no language held in common, a challenge was understood.

Both combatants sped towards each other full tilt. Renliss didn’t want to feel what the blade of blue fire could do to him. He deftly dodged the attack and thrust his blade in a small opening drawing a small amount of purple blood from his attacker. Damn if that creature’s hide wasn’t thick though! Unfortunately for Renliss, he was so fixated on avoiding the magical blade that he wasn’t paying enough attention to the Cold One. The steed bit into his chest right through his armor. Fine, I’ll take out the beast first.. More carefully this time, Renliss pushed forward focusing on parrying attacks until he got an opening to stab the Saurus’ steed through the chest, quickly pulling his blade out, so he could parry the Saurus counter attack. As the Saurus regained his footing on the ground, Renliss nicked the mighty Lizard again. A sound halfway between a battle roar and restrained vomiting was heard. Both Renliss and his opponent paused briefly watch their masters’ fight.

Renliss sire was flying in the air attempting to get a solid hit on the enemy general. He had inflicted a score of light wounds on the Carnosaur, and the vampire finally took his first wound. The Carnosaur bit into the vampire—and it didn’t find undead flesh at all appetizing, turning away and retching. While the Oldblood fought to regain control of his mount, the vampire scored more telling wounds into the titanic creatures neck. The Carnosaur began to slump to the ground, still alive but staggering from its wounds. Renliss had to refocus on his own fight because the Saurus was distracted far less than he and was attacking once again.

Renliss blocked the Scar Veteran’s blade barely in time. Now that the Saurus lost his height advantage, Renliss had the edge. He was much faster and more agile, it’s just that he seemed none of the wounds he inflicted on the Saurus were very deep. Finally the Saurus slumped over bleeding from over a dozen cuts. Not wanting to take any chances, Renliss prepared to chop off the creatures head just to be sure, when he was struck in the neck by a small dart.

Who dares! Renliss thought as his knees buckled. It was as if a small part of his blood became as living blood and the living blood fought to take over his dead heart threatening to undo the dark magic which sustained him. Vision blurring, Renliss fought against unconsciousness; he willed the dart’s unorthodox poison out of his system. Renliss briefly glimpsed a thunderbolt come crashing down towards Modrek’s corpse cart only to be harmlessly absorbed by a dark cloud. Renliss hoped his sire was right that Modrek could handle a magical duel versus the Lizard neophyte by himself. Neither Renliss nor his sire was in any position to bring their magical might to bear at the moment. Still fighting inwardly to purge the strange poison from his system, Renliss searched around. There was no sign of his shooter, the dart came from amidst a veritable cloud of spirits, Renliss figured a lack of further attacks meant his shooter was overcome by one of the Spirit Host.

Renliss noticed that the battle between his sire and the enemy general had progressed significantly during his Renliss’ brief lapse fighting the poison. The carnosaur was slain and both the Saurus general and the elder vampire were striking and parrying faster than most humans could even follow with his eyes, not slowing down despite their many wounds. Most of the Lizard soldiers were slain or driven off by now but the two leaders fought on heedless of what their minions were doing.

Renliss took a moment to tend to his own wounds. He knelt to feed from his slain foe.
The cold blood was not to his liking, but in his desperation he had no other option. He was reminded of a time in living days fighting for the Empire when his regiment’s supplies were disrupted and they had to scrounge amongst the greenskin camp they destroyed to see if any of their stores were fit for human consumption. A mere ten years of drinking this reptilian swill will leave my looking like a Strigoi! he thought.

Renliss raised his head from his desperate meal just in time to see something horrible and unexpected. He watched his sire turn to dust as the Oldblood finally struck a killing blow. The Saurus then turned his gaze to the depleted skeleton unit in front of him and the humans behind him. Renliss steeled himself to avenge his sire’s destruction or die trying when a crossbow bolt flew right into the wounded Saurus’ eye and brought him down. Renliss wasn’t sure whether to be angry or relieved that a Tilean had robbed him of the opportunity to avenge his sire’s destruction with a lucky shot.

Renliss wanted to gather his sire’s remains immediately but he had to address an immediate concern first. Where once the Tileans were outnumbered by the undead over ten-to-one, they now were barely outnumbered four-to-one. After witnessing the death of their new ruler, they would have to distracted or they would surely try something foolish.

“Well done men. As a bonus you can take all the gold jewelry or valuables you can find on the soldiers. Just save the leaders for me. Then make a pile of the reptiles’ weapons and another of their shields and arrange their corpses in a line.”

Once the Tileans were occupied he bade Modrek to fetch his sire’s coffin then set Morderek to work gathering their own forces casualties and reanimating the undead fallen that were not damaged beyond repair. Renliss wanted to gather his sire’s ashes into the coffin personally. He was about to begin so immediately he remembered his master’s reason for coming to Lustria in the first place. He spied where the neophyte Skink wizard corpse lay. I suppose now is as good a time as any to see what the blood of a spellcaster does, even a weak one. The Tilean paymaster watched him out the corner of his eye while inventorying jewels gathered.

“Now sir?” the warden whispered to him.
“Now is not our moment, the Count is expecting us to try something. Gather the valuables from the fallen lizards, and see if you can collect some of those darts while the vampire and necromancer aren’t looking, we should add them to the paychest as well”
“The darts?”
“Not all treasure glitters, Marcus”

* * * * * *

Teyish quickly rode through the streets of the temple city startling the skink workers as he passed. The worker caste was unaccustomed to seeing dignitaries rush like that. Teyish dismounted from his Horned One and left his mount in the capable hands of the stable master before proceeding on foot. Still reeling from all the loss of life he witnessed, he decided stopping for some grubs to eat would be a good idea. He was currently flustered by recent events and some fresh food would calm him down. He needed to be calm to make a better presentation to his lord.

Once composed, Teyish headed to the temple. The Saurus guardians parted respectfully to allow him through. Teyish presented the urn on the floor in front of him and bowed low, not looking up till the Slann nonverbally motioned for him to rise and speak.

“My lord, Both deeds are done, as you commanded. Losses were much higher than expected though. We lost both General Ralesk and priest Karik of the Temple of the Stars, as well as most of the soldiers they were leading. The undead had living human slaves and were able to combine their augment their undead soldiers abilities with powerful ranged attacks”

After a long pause, the Slann responded.

“You have done well. Place the urn in the Temple of the Moon and tell them to double the guards. Then debrief the survivors with a scribe and compile a report on the undead army’s capabilities. Tell the scouts to keep me appraised of the army’s movement, but do not engage the undead at this time.”

The Slann dismissed him with a wave. Tayish was not used to this many explicit instructions, but hurried out to carry out his lord’s instructions without showing his surprise. After Tayish left, Mage Priest Desserex motioned for his attendants to help him into his palanquin and he began to his journey to his personal eternity chamber. Once there, Desserex took a deep breath and transferred his consciousness outside his body, astrally reaching out to his own lord. He didn’t have to wait nearly as long as usual to make telepathic contact with his elder.

Desserex you seem agitated.”
“The plan is proceeding, but losses were high.”
“The plan will save the lives of more of servants in the long run.”
“Ralesk is dead, Our temple will not know another Saurus leader of his ability for centuries, that’ll sure cost us blood of our soldiers in each battle we fight without his leadership and ferocity.”
“That is unfortunate. We still need the ‘dark magic of death wielded indirectly to combat an even greater evil’ as the prophecy dictates”
“I still believe the Plaque means we need to use the Death magic of the Old Ones, not the perversion of it that the undead use.”
“Well you are the only one among your generation of the Slann who disagreed with my interpretation.”
“Others disagreed. They just habitually swallow their misgivings and choose not to voice their disagreements with you. This can’t be what the Old Ones intended for us to do, foul deeds do not lead to good results. If the power you seek to control slips your leash it will come back to harm us”
“You need to swallow your misgivings for the time being as I am placing you in charge of the vampires. If you believe the prophecy requires the use of traditional Old Ones taught Death magic, you should wield that magic during the Storm of Darkness while overseeing the vampires. Then both interpretations of the prophecy will be fulfilled simultaneously”
“I foresaw that you would put me in charge of the dark ones, but hoped I was mistaken. Why don’t you put one of my brothers in charge of this who ISN’T disgusted by this undertaking.”
“Because you will work harder to make sure the dark power doesn’t slide from your grasp. One of the Slann who believes wholeheartedly in my interpretation is more likely to grow complacent and let their guard down. I know you will try harder because you won’t take success for granted”

* * * * * *

A swirl of images assaulted Renliss’ mind. He saw himself swimming in square ponds, supervising the construction of a massive stepped pyramid, and frequently time spending contemplating the constellations. His life flashed before his eyes, though it was not his life, it was the life of the skink priest whose stolen blood was flowing through his veins. He knew it was not a mere neophyte wizard he drank, but a highly respected priest. Well below a Slann though well above the other Lizardmen. This was the least of the knowledge he gained, but he had no idea how long he was in a trance.

As he regained awareness of the world around him, he stumbled to his knees. Mordrek was standing above him and had extended a hand offering to help him up. Renliss first became aware that every undead soldier he had was now connected to Modrek and not him. He also saw that the taller undead was blocking his view of the battlefield. Renliss batted away the Necromancer’s hand and snarled.

“Are you okay master?”
“What are you up to Modrek! I’m distracted for a few minutes by the wizard blood and you try a coup!”
“Master, you were in trance for hours going in and out of seizure fits. The line of soldiers was to prevent the mortals from seeing”
“How many hours?”
“Four, maybe five”
“Okay the Lizardmen are about a day at their best pace to reach the nearest Temple City, and some of the skinks escaped. They have a faster pace than the Saurus, so it’s possible we can they can send reinforcements at us in less than two days. That’s if they have another army assembled, which is unlikely. How is our reinforcement process doing?”

Modrek wanted to ask a score of questions ranging from how his master knew where the nearest Lizardmen city is to which Lizardmen are Skinks and which are Saurus. Instead he answered the question given him.

“I’ve raised all the dire wolves and fell bats that weren’t damaged beyond reanimation, as well as the skeletons. About half the wolves and a fifth of the bats could not be restored. The large beasts pulverized enough skeletons that we can only recover about three quarters of them. The Tileans have separated out the Lizard corpses and their weapons and are currently burying their own dead as we speak, ostensibly in a secret location, but it can’t be far. I can find them easily”

“Don’t bother, I don’t feel like provoking the Tileans just for a small number of skeletons. You should probably focus on repairing your cart. I see you couldn’t block the lightning bolt after all.”
“I blocked the first two, but it only takes one to do this kind of damage. Now the draft zombies are slain and I don’t know what I’m going to do”

Renliss stared open-mouthed at his thrall. He gestured impatiently at the massive piles of reptilian corpses.

“I….could use….Lizardmen corpses master”
“How many spirits did you recover”
“…..seven master….”
“They weren’t properly bou—“

Renliss raised a hand to silence his thrall.

“Never mind, what’s more important is that we get my sire’s remains on a conveyance worthy of him.”

Renliss saw his sire’s ashes had a very large knot of undead soldiers surrounding it. At least Modrek can make some good decisions on his own.

“Master, we don’t have near enough components to form a proper Black Coach out here.”
“We will raise THIS.”
“We don’t quite have all the components to raise a zombie dragon either. Even if we had them we can’t guarantee it would work, this horned beast is not actually dragon.”
“Take what we have. Then take the bones of the Stegadon rider with purple and yellow feathers, powder the bones and add them to the animating components. The feathers signify that he was the primary caretaker of the Stegadon while it was alive. Adding his bones to the reanimation spell will transfer the rider’s mastery of the beast to me. Find several flowers with very dark purple petals dark and red thorns growing in bogs. They have properties sympathetic to death magic and should make up for some of our missing spell components….”

Modrek was in awe as his master displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of the Lizardmen culture, the flora and fauna of the jungle, and the time of during the nightfall that was most auspicious for raising the Stegadon. Once Renliss had returned his sire’s ashes to his coffin and Modrek was busy searching for supplies, he informed the Tileans of the location where the Lizardmen had hidden a large cache of supplies. Enough food and even fermented juice to keep the Tileans healthy and inebriated for several weeks. Once all his minions were out doing their errands. Renliss knelt before his sire’s remains.

“The life here is rich, you will be restored soon master”

Renliss could have sworn he heard the coffin reply.

Well done, my childe.

Renliss had moved his now stronger forces out in under two days. Once he we was fairly certain the Lizardmen were not in direct pursuit, he completed the spells and bindings to give his animated Stegadon the full powers of a Black Coach. Only a few hours after that ritual succeeded, he felt his stolen knowledge from the skink priest slipping away like water dripping through the spaces between cupped fingers. Realizing his will alone couldn’t hold the knowledge in. He pulled out some parchment and tried to scribble down the most useful tidbits before everything was forgotten.

Once able to gain a moment of privacy, Renliss spoke once more to his sire’s ashes.

“Our forces are stronger than before, I know where the nearest city is. It’s sure to have a Slann in it. When you are restored, the blood of the Slann will await you.”
No my childe, our forces are not near strong enough to fight the Lizards directly. You need to build our forces up on the lesser beings in Lustria.
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Mar 6, 2012
Count Renliss' Journey to Lustria: Part Three

Week 30 in Lustria

Renliss torpid form lay in his coffin while Modrek personally guarded it. Antonio the paymaster had gone out with a group of Tileans to collect water and firewood. Modrek was mildly suspicious that Antonio didn’t delegate this task to lesser humans, but he couldn’t exactly follow the Tileans and watch them while still keeping vigil over his master.

Once a good distance away. The Tileans sat down on a fallen log and discussed things. Before Antonio could open his mouth to speak, one of the soldiers erupted.

“Why are we still toadying for the damn Count! He’s not making us into skeletons, but jungle maladies and all these battles are slowly wearing us down. We’ll die of old age before the vampire decides it’s time to return home. You’ve said he wanted something from the Lizardmen, but we’ve been fighting every army under the sun except the Lizards! The last battle could have gone either way in the middle. If we turned on the count we could have joined the other side and be free!”

“The dark elf raiders! Is this your first campaign? Because if you think being their slaves is better than being the count’s mercenaries I’ll kill you right now and spare the rest of us your stupidity. I suppose you wanted to join with the two Skaven armies we fought too.”
“I didn’t say we should have joined the Skaven I’m not stupid…”
“Then you know we can’t just change sides and join anyone unless they have the right combination of honor and pragmatism to see us as allies, not food.”
“Then we turn on the vampire and flee to our ship before whoever we are fighting decides to snack on us.”
“This is why you’ll never be in charge. I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you that we are weeks of marching from our ship. Assuming we don’t get lost. We can’t just cut and run till we are closer to shore”
“What’s the difference? We’ve been marching for weeks with the undead.”
“Remember all the men we lost to the various biting swamp creatures? I don’t suppose you noticed that since joining the undead, all the jungle predators have left us alone? The walking dead repel lesser animals, and I say that makes them worth tolerating. If we want to flee on our ship we need to be able to not just survive the trip but have the numbers to overtake the skeletons guarding it and have enough men alive after that to fully crew the ship”
“We have our secret weapon, the skeletons on the boat will be no problem.”

The soldier pulled out a crossbow bolt with a poison dart tied to it.

“We need to save as many of those darts as possible for the leaders, we have take out both the count and his pet necromancer or we’re worse than dead. We don’t do anything unless I signal it. We need to get back to camp before the Count wakes up and suspects something”

The last surviving fell bat hung upside in the trees above the gathered Tileans. Renliss hadn’t woken up yet because he was not asleep. He was projecting his will elsewhere, perceiving everything Fell bat’s eyes and ears could tell him. Were his mind inside his body at the time, he would have been smiling.

Unbeknowst to the spying Renliss and the Tilean troops alike, a matter weighed heavily on Antonio’s mind. He knew they’d have to time a betrayal carefully, but for the past week, every night a single notion kept dominating his dreams while he slept.

The vampire will no longer want you alive if you lose the cannon. Better to act quickly.

Renliss rose from his fake sleep. The stolen knowledge from the Naggorthi sorceress had faded from Renliss mind a few days ago. Just as well because while it was coursing through him, he found his violent urges closer to the surface. During that time, it took all his restraint not to slay half the Tileans for imagined slights, now he heard them actively plotting against them. Even without a dark elf witch’s murderous instincts coursing through him, the temptation to kill them all now was strong. As satisfying as that would be, they were most useful alive for the time being. Perhaps when he decided he wanted some more palatable blood. For now the elven blood was a welcome change from the bestial blood he was subsisting on. As distracting as the sorceress’ blood was, it was not nearly as mentally jarring as the skaven wizard’s he had earlier. In both cases the sheer exhilaration of tasting their power even briefly made all the hassle worth it.

He watched disinterestedly as the Tileans practiced using the slain dark elf’s repeating crossbows. They couldn’t operate them as efficiently as the elves of course, but they were very low on their own crossbow bolts so they had to make due with what they could find. Most of the Tileans had swapped their own swords for elven blades too. The dark elves rations were a welcome boon to the Tileans as well, though they preferred not to think too hard where the salted meat had come from. They even had something for Renliss, since the sorceress had brought a stash of fermented blood with them. Renliss was happy to use the Dark Elves’ supplies but new better than to leave any survivors and try to conscript them as he had with the Tileans, not that any asked for quarter.

Renliss decided to consult with his sire’s remains again.

“Our forces have grown once more with the corpses of the Naggorthi, despite the damage they inflicted upon us. We only have enough gunpowder for two, perhaps three more rounds from the cannon.”

Don’t bother rationing the shots, childe. Use it at the next battle then abandon it. The act of hauling the cannon around has been slowing down your forces needlessly.
“Next battle?”
You are still a long ways from having the strength to challenge the Lizardmen directly. You said the elves were aware of a small tribe of orcs, not far from your position, yes?
“Orcs? I don’t think their weakling shamans’ blood wouldn’t contribute much.” Renliss had begun to weigh all enemies by the blood of the wizards with them.
Perhaps not, but their bones are durable relative to most other beings and would make excellent conscripts.

His master’s suggestions were essentially commands, even when his master was a pile of dust, Renliss had no choice but to acquiesce.

“We shall begin preparations at once master.

Scouting with the Fell Bat in the direction sorceress was vaguely aware all the orcs were coming from revealed that the orc tribe didn’t live in the jungle outright, but rather in a rocky area filled with geysers and reeking of sulfur. Orcs never live anywhere nice, Renliss mused. Renliss decided to act during the day (though it was cloudy). He wanted to prove to the Tileans (and himself) that he could handle anything at any time. His battle plan required precise shooting and he didn’t want his last few shots to miss in the dark.

The only surviving Tilean scout rode the healthiest still living horse down towards the orc camp all alone. Renliss liked that it only took mere gold to get him to do this role. He rode into the full view of the orc camp, yelled and turned around full speed. The daylight would once again be handy to avoid having the rider have a mishap in the rocky field (not that Renliss cared a lot about the rider’s safety, but he wasn’t above pretending that he did).

True to form, the orcs did not send a mere detachment to chase one human. The whole camp mobilized. That was rash even for orcs, but Renliss didn’t realize that the tribe’s leader was keeping the tribe waiting for an unusually long period of time, and they were getting restless. The rider ran through a narrow gap between two rock outcropping pursued fairly closely by a pack of boar riders as the savage orcs on foots slowly funneled through the bottle neck behind them. The bottle neck was where the cannon was aimed. Barely slowing down, the orcs that weren’t hit by the two cannon shots then found themselves facing a hail of crossbow bolts accompanied by bolts of dark magic aimed by Renliss and Modrek.

The scout rode through the gap in the undead line left for him on the off chance he survived that long. The gap closed barely in time as the savage boar riders chasing him crashed against the skeletons and zombies. With less flora and fauna in the wasteland, to obscure their auras, Renliss lifesense was as sharp as ever. He was easily able to sense the forest goblin unit attached to the tribe trying an unexpected flank attacked over the seemingly impassable cliff side with their spider riders. Renliss ordered the cannon crew to keep their last cannon shot (the one with less gunpowder and a smaller shot) in reserve earlier half expecting this ploy. As the last of the spider riders crested the cliff and began their downward descent, the cannon hit a loose rock outcropping causing a small avalanche burying some spiders and scattering the rest. While most of the spiders were nimble enough to escape, very few goblins could remain on their mounts in those conditions and thus tumbled down the slopes along with the rocks.

A goblin staggered up from the ground, dizzy but unhurt. No matter what happens to a group of goblins there always seemed to be one that survives every disaster. Not pushing his luck, he decided to hide behind a boulder and wait out the battle there, not knowing that a wounded spider, now masterless, was using the same hiding place and needed fresh blood to have the strength to get back over the slope.

Momentarily distracted by the satisfying rock falls, and the amusing fate of the goblin “survivor,” it took a yelp from Mordrek to alert Renliss to a change in the front lines. Mordrek was clutching his temples and wincing from pain. With all his magical defenses trying to keep his brains from spilling out his ears, there was nothing he could do to stop a green hand from picking up a mob of Savage Orcs and delivering them on the other side of the bottleneck. Now hemmed both sides by magically augmented troops, the undead in the front were crumbling in the front lines. Even the Tileans were forced to fight hand-to-hand. What started as a simple slaughter threatened to become a debacle with the arrival of no less than three savage orc shamans.

Renliss parted a gap in his reserves to allow his master’s new conveyance to enter the battle. The massive reanimated Stegadon was brimming with power from all the magic being cast. Now more potent in death than it was in life, it stomped and gored every orc within reach. The Stegadon was finally giving the frenzied orcs pause (and scaring off their weaker-willed Tileans). Renliss reached out his dark power over the battlefield and began reanimating the fallen skeletons and zombies in the frontline anew, as well as the fallen orcs. With the battle once more going his way, it was time to take care of the shamans. Like true orc leaders they had moved to the front, and Renliss wanted to make sure he got to them before all their magical blood was spilt. Renliss pulled the large obsidian sword he won from the Scar Veteran he beat and preceded to the front of the line.

The last of the lesser shamans was squashed flat by the zombie Stegadon just before Renliss could reach him. Renliss was mainly interested in the leader who was surrounded by a growing pile of crumpled skeletons. Mighty as he was, the burn scar covered savage was no match for Renliss. Renliss swung his stolen blade and chopped the shamans hands off at the wrist, to remove the threat while spilling relatively little blood. Renliss finished the job of slaying him at his leisure.

Renliss hated drinking the blood of greenskins as a rule, but he couldn’t resist the power offered by this potent shaman. It was expected that the side effects would be severe, so Modrek was ready to cover for him. The taste was foul. In addition to the normal sensations that hit his palate from drinking orc blood, he tasted a very strong hint of sulfur. The accompanying visions were truly overwhelming.

While a captain of the Empire, he had a general who insisted his captains learn the greenskin’s tongue, to fight them better supposedly. Renliss never bothered. He knew enough of their foul dialect to notice that the greenskins he fought mentioned Gork and Mork noticeably less than others he fought back in the Old World. If he paid more attention to his language lessons he might have been able to make more sense of the deluge of visions going through his head. Perhaps not given the dialect differences between Badlands orcs and Lustrian Savage Orcs. Several dances and ritual fights. Lots of goblins getting kicked around. He saw this tribe worshiped a geyser alongside the usual orc gods and their leaders would run through the boiling eruptions to prove their mettle. They also cooked most of their food by putting their meat on geysers rather than consuming it raw, hence both the shaman’s burn scars and the taste of sulfur in his blood. The greenskins never seemed to venture far from their blighted wasteland. Renliss despaired that he was going to gain no useful information, just replays of their pathetic rituals. There was one thing that shown through. Divinations derived from the entrails of numerous ritually sacrificed creatures.

“The geysers of the sky will split open! Magic storm coming!”

No one heard this garbled pronouncement. Modrek was busy trying and failing to shield his master from view, but he couldn’t hide the regal lord’s flailing and grunting form the Tileans.

The Stegadon was already resting and they were relatively close to the boats. Antonio figured this was their best chance now that the cannon was empty.

“Strike now!”

Modrek was struck by three bolts and crumpled to the ground. A number of skeletons were struck. Once most of the skeletons nearest to Renliss were struck down, Antonio personally aimed a bolt with five darts tied to it and pierced Renliss chest. Renliss slowly slumped to the ground. All the undead soldiers froze and stood still. The Tileans began to cheer.

“They should be crumbling. I’m going to chop his head off to be sure.”

Antonio drew his sword and walked to Renliss’ prone form only to find his foe almost float to his feet straight backed and grinning widely. He plucked the crossbow bolt from his chest.

“Antonio, did you know that to make their poison dangerous to undead the Lizardmen bless it to their god Chotec?”

The Tilean paymaster stood silent, his mouth gaping open in shock.

“No? Then you probably don’t know that the enchantment only lasts a single lunar cycle. I know this, and now you know it too.”

He pulled the parchment out on which his hastily jotted down notes from the memories of the skink priest he drained and tossed it to the ground. He then thrust the crossbow bolt into the Tilean. It took a lot of patience to set up the needlessly dramatic reversal of the betrayal. It was even harder to set it up as planned while he was fighting the savage orc’s impulses. Now that the subterfuge was over he stopped restraining those impulses and mashed every Tilean to a pulp he could reach.

Afterwards, Renliss forces had increased dramatically in size. All the more or less intact orc and Tilean corpses were animated. The rest replenished the corpse cart. Renliss’ blood lust was fully satiated for the time being so the few surviving Tileans were ritually sacrificed to feed Modrek’s life force and help him recuperate from his wounds faster. Calmed down considerably, Renliss decided to consult with his master’s remains again.

When the Storm of Magic hits is the time to strike against the Lizardmen!

“But if the orc saw this coming, surely the Slann did as well. I’m guessing they can harness the power far better than Modrek and myself.”

They are so used to casting magic in normal times that they will be more vulnerable than usual. The Storm will aid you more than them. Wait three days and nights and then begin a march southeast that will take you to the nearest Temple City at the moment the storm will hit
“How do you know that”
My mystical senses are stronger than they have ever been while my body is absent. I can see things you cannot imagine my childe. Rest, then prepare your forces for battle.

* * * * * *

Renliss had never seen a storm of magic, but he heard about them. He was not surprised to see strange ripples taking the forms of leering faces in the sky. He was not surprised that the sky’s hue was shifting between dark purple and green and back again. Then he heard his master’s voice from his casket resting on the re-animated Stegadon. Weaker and less confident than the other times.

Renlissssss…..hear me….the storm of magic gives me the strength to let me speak to you
“Master you have been speaking to me for weeks!”
Not me speaking…..you have been trickeddd…..The Slann impersonated me.

What happened next surprised him even more. For the third time since he became a vampire, Renliss felt his heart beat.

Even more unusual than the beating of his heart. While he could feel the lone beat as easily as ever, he could also feel his heart was not in his chest. He knew his heart was in an urn being held by a skink in front of a Slann. As the storm intensified he felt a foreign presence invade his mind. He fought back with all his strength, he knew he couldn’t prevail but all the experience plundering memories from the blood of wizards gave him some ability to handle the mind-to-mind contact better than his foe anticpated. He gained some tidbits of the memories of what could only be a Slann. Mostly incomprehensible flashes but he was able to understand the Slann’s tongue via their connection. A connection the Slann had forged to speak to Renliss in his master’s voice and language.

Renliss saw a Skink priest before him. He saw flashes of the past. Renliss was knocked unconscious by the poisonous dart and the priest had removed his heart with something he called the Fang of Tepok. Now it was in an urn held by the Desserex’s attendant.

“Keep me appraised of the movements of invaders, but hold our troops back, I don’t want to lose any more soldiers needlessly. I will direct the vampire towards them to break this force as well. Only use our soldiers to hunt the survivors.”

That was the last he got before he lost his struggle with the Slann completely. The Slann chose to speak to him in the voice of Renliss’ sire

I see you are no longer an ignorant pawn, my childe,[/b The last two words were dripping with contempt and irony.
“Your charade is over, TOAD!”
It matters not that you know who I am, you can no more resist my commands than the skeleton soldiers can resist yours. You never would have been able to march around with an army of undead Lizardmen if I hadn’t allowed you to. You liked drinking the blood of elves before, now I am ALLOWING you to do it again. Your forces will take point. Tell Modrek to form a defensive formation with the zombies around the fulcrum I’m guiding you towards. Then we’ll see which targets are worthy of your personal touch.

Renliss would have scowled but the control over him was absolute and his expression didn’t show his horrible fury. He even intensified his mystical and psychological hold over Modrek when he was questioning his unusual orders. Mentally he was screaming at the Slann.

“I will beat this! Then I will feast on your blood!”
You have to survive the battle first to get revenge. Start with that hydra. Oh, while I can’t really be distracted by your infantile railing, I’d prefer not to deal with it. I order you to silence your insolence. To get the blade you are using to enflame itself, say ‘Chotec kas-nar.’

Unable to maintain his focus on revenge, Renliss pushed it to the back of his mind and concentrated on the battle again. He would survive this and find his opening, just like Antonio did against him, only HE would succeed.
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Mar 6, 2012
Fall of Turochlitan

There are many lesser temple cities in Lustria. While some minor cities (called Kahoun by the residents) are active, most are in ruins as the Lizardmen have gradually fallen back to Itza, Hexoatl, Tlaxtan, and Xlanhuapec. By most accounts the least of all the lesser cities is probably Turochlitan. It was arguably not a true temple city at all. But to the Slann mage priest, Merestar, Turochlitan was everything.

Merestar was known among Slann as being the most reckless and impulsive of his race (though by Human standards he would still be seen as intolerably slow acting and contemplative). Merestar responded to criticism of other Slann by saying that inaction in the face of troubles is worse than making a mistake in action and that mistakes from actions are far more enlightening in discerning the plans of the Old Ones than endless pondering.

Slann are rarely known to be talkative. It’s not uncommon for the servants of the Slann to spend more time trying to interpret vague, terse instructions than they spent actually carrying the instructions out. This was never a problem with Merestar. His proclivity for action made him a veritable micromanager to the Lizardmen who served under him.

During the time of Sigmar, the Slann’s collective mystical senses were aware of the battles between mankind and the forces of Chaos in vague terms. The Slann naturally contemplated the implications of the Old Ones plans for mankind in the wake of this small but noticeable surge against Chaos. Merestar did not contemplate long. He figured if the Humans could hold the Chaos at bay now despite their ignorance, with the guidance of the First (Lizardmen) they would be able to fight Chaos far more efficiently and would fullfill the Old Ones plans completely.

Against the opposition of other Slann, Merestar ordered the construction of Turochlitan. He then populated it with young Humans. It was not known how Merestar got the original Humans to Turochlitan. For the first several generations, the Humans were raised by learned Skinks under the guidance of Merestar. They were taught the language of the Skinks (or rather a crude dialect easier for Humans to pronounce) and they were taught of the Old Ones. By the standards of the First, the Humans knowledge of the Old Ones was shallow and watered down, but the Humans did well enough given the limitations of the warm blooded races. They took to worshipping Chotec and Huanchi the easiest, the sun god was easiest to understand and the jaguar god was easier to relate to than the more reptile-centric Old Ones.

As the population of Turochlitan expanded, much to Merestar’s approval, the Humans did most of the construction themselves to accommodate their growing numbers. Each generation seemed to take to the teachings of their Skink mentors better than the previous one. Merestar hoped that if these Humans advanced far enough, they could spread the wisdom of the Old Ones to all of Humanity. Merestar instructed his followers to gradually give the Humans of Turochlitan more autonomy to manage their own affairs.

The Humans who took the lore of the Old Ones best became the first Human priests of the Old Ones. With Human priests directing them rather than Skinks, the general piety of the Humans of Turochlitan increased. They also made their own iconography to the Old Ones, over time it became less reptilian. Less formal names were used for the Old Ones that were easier for the Humans to pronounce. Over time, the original names were forgotten by all but the priests. Merestar did not object to these changes, as long as they kept the core essentials of the Old Ones, this was acceptable. Some adaptation would be necessary if the Humans were to fully embrace the Old Ones.

Over time, Merestar had the Skinks give the Humans too much autonomy. Three new gods entered the pantheon of Turochlitan under the direction of a new priestess Kayishen. These gods were known as Maylar, Phidas, and Greymaris. If Merestar’s servants noticed at all, they must have assumed the three new gods were merely different names and visages for existing Old Ones. They were different names and visages for Khorne, Slaanesh, and Tzeentch respectively (it is unclear why Nurgle wasn’t involved). Kayishen made it her goal to control all of Turochlitan and supplant the old pantheon with her patrons. Her attempts to spread her following could not be hidden forever, especially as the religious observances of Kayishen and her followers became more extreme. Once her excesses finally came to the attention of the Skinks of Turochlitan, Kayishen had her elite Maylar guard murder all of the city’s Skink teachers. Her core followers began rounding up the remaining Humans and giving them the choice to renounce the Old Ones and serve Maylar, Phidas, and Greymaris or die painfully.

Many of the Humans loyal to the Old Ones fled in fear. They attempted to warn Merestar and the other Lizardmen. For security reasons, Merestar instructed his followers to not share the location of any Lizardmen city to any Humans, no matter how trusted. The Humans of Turochlitan were trained how to live off the jungle, but they couldn’t survive the wilderness indefinitely. Especially since the refugees were forced to flee with minimal tools and supplies. Two months later a Skink patrol found one of the refugees by sheer chance. The infections he was suffering from his travails in the jungle made him beyond saving. Shortly before he expired, he told the Skinks what had happened. The Skinks informed Marestar.

Merestar mobilized his army at once. Kayishen was not naïve enough to not expect retaliation and had prepared herself and her followers for the eventuality. Her soldiers were brimming with the gifts of the gods of Chaos (under the local names) and Greymaris had personally taught Kayishen stronger powers of sorcery than any Skink priest she had ever witnessed. Her voice was empowered with the seductive power of Slaanesh/Phidas so even the unwilling converts hastened to obey her orders.

None of the Humans in living memory had ever seen Merestar. The Humans were not even aware of Saurus and Kroxigor since Merestar did not believe that they would help the Humans assimilate the First's values. Expecting Skinks, Kayishen’s followers were totally outmatched by the stronger more militant Lizardmen who retaliated. Only having the seen the powers of the lowest ranking Skink priests, Kayishen was in no way prepared to handle mystical might of an enraged Slann and was incinerated in seconds. Not one Human was spared. Merestar personally struck down nearly as many Humans as his entire army combined. He toppled every building with his magic then ordered his followers to burn every board to ash and pound every brick to dust so the jungle would completely overtake every trace of the ruins.

Marestar collapsed from exhaustion after giving the order to destroy Turochlitan. He was carried back to his chamber. It was worried that he was terminally injured by a subtle miscast, but eventually he began eating again. For centuries he has never left his chamber, he barely moved, and he never gave out a single instruction. To this day Marestar continues to ponder what his next action should be.
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Mar 6, 2012
The Return to Turochclitan

The Lizardmen were winning the battle versus the Dark Elves. There erstwhile allies, Renliss’s minions were taking proportionally more losses than the reptiles. No doubt as the toad planned! Renliss fumed. As the battle progressed Renliss felt the Slann’s control over him diminishing slowly. As the battle was drawing to a close and the Slann were beginning their final mystical push, Renliss was completely free. In his anger he thought of charging the nearest Slann. Though the zombified Stegadon bearing his masters remains was all but invincible with the magical power flowing through it, Renliss knew his depleted forces were no match for his former “allies.” He simply withdrew, raising as many fallen Lizardmen to bolster his ranks as he could.

The Slann were preoccupied wielding the massive power of the storm. Only the Skink Priest Teyish noticed what Renliss was doing and attempted to stop him. He boldly directed his Horned One towards the withdrawing undead horde. Even channeling a tiny portion of the storm’s power, the lowly Skink had as much power as a Slann under normal conditions. He clapped his hands and pushed a massive torrent of wind and lightning towards the vampire. Renliss was surging with extra power of his own and managed to draw up his power and disperse most of it, sending part of the wind hurtling back at the Skink sending him sprawling from mount and flying into a tree. The Horned One, Loroq, had served as a mount to many ranking Skinks before and had no special loyalty to Teyish. It bolted.

Renliss ran forward to the prone Skink and was delighted to find the Skink unconscious. He wanted to plunder the Skink’s power but didn’t trust his ability to process the Skinks magical blood while the storm was going on. He threw the limp Skink over his shoulder and quietly left the field without anyone further contesting him.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Renliss needed to strengthen his forces. If he could help it he would find a way to recruit new followers without making corpses of the Lizardmen’s many enemies as he had been tricked into doing before. The secrets of Teyish gave him an option to do just that.

Teyish had once served as an attendant to the near comatose Merestar. Being detail oriented, Teyish had read up on the records about Turochlitan. Now Renliss had a portion of his information too. Renliss only had a vague idea where Turochlitan once stood. Since no markers remained, he could not find it with naked sight. To find the site, Renliss had to use his master’s makeshift Black Coach as a divining rod to search for lingering dark magic. After spending over two years searching, Renliss located the site of Merestar’s failed experiment.

The event happened before the rise of Sotek, so by this point all the bones of the fallen were as dust. The stirring of dark power was very faint. Renliss couldn’t tell if the power was weak or if it was merely contained by sanctifying rituals from the Lizardmen. Either way Renliss didn't want to take any chances. He decided to wait until Gehimnisnacht before attempting to raise the fallen.

Under the baleful light of the two full moons, Renliss reached out his power into the earth and pulled the Maylar Guard up from where they fell. Though their bones were turned to dust, enough lingering dark power remained in the dust for Renliss’s magic to combine with and reconstitute them. One by one the deceased Maylar Guard rose from the earth and knelt before their new master. Once this was complete Renliss attuned his mystical senses to the border world between the living and dead and searched until he found a lingering pained presence. He found Kayishen.

The pale spirit of the fallen priestess walked on the ground of Lustria once more. Kayishen had lost all the powers given to her by her dark gods save one: the Voice of Phidas. Though no less powerful than before, her voice was no longer seductive and compelling. Now it was twisted by centuries of anger and torment and little more than a blunt weapon. She unleashed the power of her voice on the walking corpse who dared to summon her.

“Your scream is quite potent. You almost hurt me.” Renliss responded with exaggerated disinterest.
How dare you patronize me you foul walking corpse!

Though she spoke in her own language (the adapted language of the Skinks) and Renliss spoke in his, both could understand each other given Renliss’ mystical ties to the dead.

“Whereas you are not even a corpse, you are a memory. If had not pulled you back from the where you were you would not even be that. I removed you from your torment and brought you back into this world because I believe you may be of use to me”
You dare to declare dominion over ME! I am the high priestess of the True Old Ones, I serve no creature of this world. The powers of the earth and sky bow before me. I am…

Renliss let her continue on her rant for several more minutes until she stopped talking. It took quite a while since without lungs she could not become winded. Getting no response, she tried to leave and found she was bound in a small circle of powder from crushed bone and the roots of several poisonous jungle plants approximately five feet in diameter.

“I bound you to that location temporarily. I could have bound your will had I chosen—“
Nothing can bind me!

That’s just what I thought once Renliss mused.

“—but I believe you would be more useful as a willing vassal. Our goals are very similar.”
You know nothing of my goals, outlander!
“My goal is to kill as many Slann as possible, possibly starting with Merestar who is in a weaker state than ever”
….How may I be of service, my lord?
“Tell me all the lore you know of the Lizardmen”
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Mar 6, 2012
Most of my fluff pieces are tied in the same narrative and build on each other. Despite this I have done my best to make all my stories capable of standing alone. This sequel is so closely tied to Legacies that reading this story will probably be unsatisfying or confusing (and spoil Legacies like crazy). If you don't want to check out the link and read 61 pages about the adventures of my vampire Haun-kai when he was alive. The highlight the next paragraph for spoilers.

Huan-kai is unique among Chameleon Skinks for three reasons. 1) He is the first Chameleon Skink Priest, 2) He is the first Skink to cast the Lore of Shadows, and 3) He is the first Skink to become a Vampire.

I would like to thank Spawning of Bob for his help on this story. He has been helping me edit a lot of my pieces, but he went above and beyond to help me with this. Not only did he proof read this, but he came up with a number of the supporting story elements.

Without further ado, please enjoy Dead Water.

Dead Water, Part One: Reconnaissance

Grand Commodore Harkon paced the deck aboard a beached vessel. The ship he was on was probably a very impressive vessel years ago, but the gaping hole in the hull revealed it would never sail again. Despite this, the ships rigging was set and a full contingent of crewmen stood completely silently and flawlessly at attention, the way only statues and the undead could pull off. The vampire turned to the nearest officer, a zombie distinguishable from his fellows by gold trim on his clothing and a less visible state of decay. His sword was even rust free, implying it was either magical or Harkon bothered to have it cleaned regularly.

“Mr. Anders have the sentries detected anything?”

The zombie stood silently. After a few moments, Luthor Harkon spoke again.

“Very well, have the men keep searching.”

He paced the deck some more.

“Mr. Wilson, how fare our provisions?”

The zombie stood silently. After about ten minutes, Harkon spoke again.

“Very well, cut the grog rations by a quartile until we can restock the supplies.”

He sharply turned to a rank and file zombie in the third row.

“I heard that! Insubordination! Mr. Wilson, I want this man flogged a twenty times come sunset!”

Huan-kai sat in a tree and continued to watch the odd Human vampire yell orders and reprimands at his nonresponsive crew. Chameleon Skinks can stand perfectly still for hours. Since becoming a vampire, he could stay perfectly still for days. Moving only to fend off the coconut crabs, which alone of all creatures in the animal kingdom seemed not to be repulsed by the undead and highly interested in eating his toes.

As time wore on, Harkon’s one-sided conversations only got more confusing. He wondered if he was mistranslating the vampire’s Reikspiel words. Sometimes he talked about supplies the zombies weren’t using. Sometimes he talked about raising or lowering their pay. Huan-kai was only vaguely familiar with the Human concept of currency, but he was fairly certain that reanimated dead men do not normally get paid.

Renliss could command his basest minions with his mind alone. Even Kayishen rarely needed to speak commands to could get modest numbers of undead to follow her lead (though she seemed to like speaking commands out of nostalgia for her breathing days). Huan-kai was just beginning to learn to command lesser undead, and he didn’t ever bother speaking to them. He didn’t like using Reikspiel if he could help it, and talking to zombies in Saurian seemed weird, or even blasphemous. He had enough experience with telepathy that issuing mental commands just seemed more natural though it made him feel a bit like a Slann. That both excited and disgusted him.

It also seemed to be easier. No reason to talk to something without a true mind. These zombies were all mindless…or were they? Vampires only needed to speak to their sapient minions: other vampires, necromancers, some spirits, and some wights, yet Harkon insisted on having lengthy discussions with zombies which were barely sentient, much less possessing any semblance of will.

The zombies were mostly Human with a few Elves and Ogres mixed in. They showed considerably variety in how they were dressed and their post-mortem state. Some seemed dried up like leather while others were completely bloated or waterlogged. The zombie ranks held every permutation in between. There was a relative lack of amputees for zombies. A few had peg legs or hook hands, but Harkon’s men looked a lot more together than Renliss’ men. There were also some wolf zombies…no dog zombies. Renliss had explained the difference between dogs and wolves when he commented on how similar dogs and huagerdons seemed to be. The dogs milled around the Humanoid crews while sniffing things and wagging their tails. The dogs acted closer to their original living selves than any undead Huan-kai had ever seen before.

Huan-kai wondered if Harkon was a strong necromancer or just a stickler for complete zombies Even Renliss would abandon zombies mutilated beyond a certain point and Harkon could have simply set a stricter threshold. Then Huan-kai saw one of the sailor zombie’s arms fall off. Harkon ordered it beaten for its insubordination because of this. Then the mangled corpse pieces were tossed into the surf. Over the course of about twenty minutes the pieces came together again and the newly re-reanimated zombie joined a column patrolling the beach. Weird.

The idea that hundreds of zombies could be sapient and telepathic was absurd, but Huan-kai had to know for certain. He reached out his mind to contact one of the first officers and nothing happened. When he first became a vampire, Huan-kai often had mishaps using his old spells and cantrips, but that awkwardness with spellcasting had gone away long ago, or so he thought. Reading minds was one of Huan-kai’s most intrinsic powers and his cantrip still fizzled. Glad Kayishen can’t see my failed attempt, I’d never hear the end of it. He tried reaching out once more. Again nothing happened, although this time he was pretty sure the spell worked. The zombie’s mind was simply not capable of forming coherent verbal thoughts.

Huan-kai noticed his scales turning back to dark grey. He had lost his natural color change ability when he died, but as soon as he got a renewed grasp on his Shadow magic, he tirelessly worked on developing a camouflaging cantrip which he had been maintaining since he began his stakeout. Now even that simple magic was failing him too.

Fortunately, it was a few hours till sunrise, so his dead gray skin still blended in reasonably well with his surroundings in the dark. Huan-kai still shivered nervously, a body reflex he rarely experienced when alive. One impulse from his living days that he had yet to lose was a strong desire to remain hidden at all times. If a Chameleon Skink finds himself in a situation where his camouflage doesn’t work the first instinct is to flee immediately. He tried to reactivate his color change cantrip. Again, nothing happened.

Mystical senses are different from one caster to the next, Huan-kai usually felt mystic awareness tactilely as a second kind of moisture. As he understood it, the magic had gone dry around the strange vampire. Magic was second nature to him, so he felt even more exposed without his sorcery than he did without his concealment.

Huan-kai tried to gracefully exit his tree, but he knocked a branch on the way down which made a fairly audible thunk on the ground. At least a hundred zombies snapped to attention and turned towards him as one.


Even a wet worker caste Skink should be able to quietly climb down a tree. Huan-kai’s senses were sharper and his body was much stronger and more resilient than before, but his new (old?) body felt clumsy now. Hopefully these zombies aren’t any faster than their landlocked cousins. He sprinted away from Harkon’s makeshift port. Huan-kai couldn’t manage an all-out sprint like he could while alive, but now he could run at a moderate pace for a very long time without tiring. As soon as he felt the magical dryness dissipate, he concentrated as hard as he could and was soon carried away in the dark talons of a Shadow construct Terradon.

Once back at Renliss’ camp the various undead soldiers parted to make a path for him. Normally Renliss didn’t bother with things like that.

Great, he’s impatient! I was the one crouched in a tree for three days fending off coconut crabs…

Huan-kai gave a mental sigh and trudged forward (physical sighs went away long ago since he only needed to breathe to speak). Renliss looked at him expectantly.

“Well? What have you learned?”
“Lord Renlissss, I have learned that Luthor Harkon’ssss mental canopy is missing some leavesss.”
Mar 6, 2012
Dead Water, Part Two: Diplomacy

A lone Human zombie trudged through the jungle undergrowth. Huan-kai followed behind it as far as he dared. Most animals give the undead a wide berth, but a lone zombie is still pretty vulnerable, and Huan-kai did not want it destroyed. Also, the range of Huan-kai’s control wasn’t great, so he had to stay close to maintain the connection.

Huan-kai tried and failed to will away his mild headache. Controlling the zombie was taxing. When people talk about necromancers controlling the undead, they usually mean directing the undead instead. Haun-kai was actually controlling this one. He saw out of its eyes and directed its legs monotonous marching. Left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg. It was probably the most boring thing he did in either his life or unlife. Unfortunately if Huan-kai let his focus drift off too long, he’d lose track of where he was going and walk into a tree or fall down a ravine while the zombie plodded along in front of him.

Why isn’t Renliss doing this instead of me?

Renliss could control a zombie with a lot less mental energy than Huan-kai needed and he could do it at a much greater distance. He probably didn’t do it because Huan-kai was expendable. Everyone who wasn’t Renliss was expendable. This could have been a punishment assignment or a test of loyalty. In their last skirmish, a battle with some Human treasure seekers, Huan-kai was directing most of the zombies while Renliss directed the stronger troops. Huan-kai used the troops under his command a little too aggressively and a lot of them were destroyed beyond the ability to reanimate them. Huan-kai claimed it was an error of judgment, but he was being deliberately sloppy and Renliss wasn’t fooled.

Briefly, Huan-kai pondered “accidentally” having his zombie walk off a cliff, and going back to Renliss ask for another one. Maybe Renliss would throw up his hands and make Kayishen do this mission instead. Maybe he would even do it himself since Kayishen had the diplomatic ability of a bull Stegadon during mating season.

Unfortunately, Huan-kai knew that Renliss could control him outright, just like this zombie. That was the ultimate Ripperdactlyl hanging above him in the sky. Telepathy was the first magic Huan-kai every learned, so controlling Huan-kai was not easy. Still, when Huan-kai did something to spite his master, he paid dearly for it. Renliss paid too. Each time Renliss seized control, Huan-kai seemed to have more slightly mental fortitude than the last time. Renliss was usually so tired that Kayishen and Mordreck had to take over the Carnosaur’s share of the army whenever Huan-kai and Renliss had a telepathic “fight.”

Still it took its toll on Huan-kai leaving him weak for days afterwards. His mental fights with Renliss felt disturbingly similar to the time when he was alive and Lord Merestar channeled several spells through him. Lately, Huan-kai found himself trying testing Renliss’ tolerance limits less and less. Am I getting more comfortable serving the Fallen? Am I getting more comfortable being Fallen? At the same time, Renliss seemed to give the Skink more leeway with small and mostly symbolic forms rebellion. Is he trusting me more? Surely not. The vampire Skink had no idea why he was reanimated at all. Why go through that much trouble to raise a minion that wants to kill you?

He got surprising leeway after the last battle. Most Old World vampires tend to be cavalier with their non-elite minions, but Renliss is a stingy steward of his resources and will go the extra mile to get even a single extra undead solider. After the last battle, Huan-kai was so sloppy with his “dinner” and tore up the Humans he was feeding to the point where corpses couldn’t be reanimated. Huan-kai was eager to have some sustenance which didn’t come from the veins of the First Children of the Old Ones. Renliss vastly preferred Human blood as well, so maybe he approved of the enthusiastic feeding. He complains about the inferior taste of cold blood a lot. Huan-kai never let Renliss know his secret. Huan-kai preferred Human blood for a different reason. To him, cold blood tasted better. He hoped if he fed on Prodigals with extra vigor and less restraint that his tastes would change, but it had yet to work.

Might as well finish this stupid assignment.

The zombie stopped. Once Huan-kai caught up to it, he unwound the white flag from the stick he as carrying and handed it to the reanimated Human. The Skink looked at the moons and constellations in the sky, and marshaled as much power as he could. At Renliss’ direction, Huan-kai timed his arrival at Harkon’s camp for when the Winds of Magic were at a relative peak, so controlling the zombie should have been relatively easy, despite Harkon’s magic disruption. Unfortunately, marching the zombie into Harkon’s camp still felt like swimming upstream. Huan-kai settled into a tree and increased his focus.

He hoped Harkon wouldn’t simply grab a free bonus zombie. It’s normally very hard for a necromancer to forcibly seize control of a minion from another necromancer, even if the would-be thief is more powerful than the first necromancer. Renliss called this the Principle of First Reanimation, but Harkon seemed to play by his own rules loosely controlling thousands of zombies in an area where Huan-kai struggled to control even one.

The undead sailors adjusted ranks to make a clear path to the docked flagship. The flag bearing zombie shambled down the path. The crew lowered a gang plank allowing the new zombie aboard. Huan-kai didn’t know if his feelings were based on fear, loyalty, or morbid curiosity to see Harkon’s reaction, but he decided not to try to subvert this assignment.

The zombie attempted to plant its flag in a knothole but Huan-kai misjudged the hole through the dead Human’s eyes and the flag fell. Oops, minor thing. Focus: here comes the hard part. The zombie knelt to the ground to pick up the flag, then it opened its mouth.

“Lord Renlisss of the Von Carstein bloodline sendsss hisss regardsss to mighty Luthor Harkon of the Vampire Coast.”

Harkon leapt up from his chair so fast, he reminded Huan-kai of a Huagerdon when he first smells the feeders coming. He did not bother to hide his grin (which is how Humans express happiness). He acted as if the zombie was the greatest thing he had ever seen.

“Welcome ambassador of Lord Renliss! It has been many centuries since I was able to speak to one of the blood. What brings you to my humble port?”

The eagerness bothered Huan-kai. Huan-kai thought opening a talk with this vampire should be much harder. Renliss sent a minion because vampires tend to be very wary of each other. Then it dawned on him. Harkon is lonely.

Worse than directing his senses through a rotting corpse. Worse than fighting the anti-magic bubble, was relating Renliss’ script exactly as given.

“Lord Renlisss wishes to ally our mighty forcessss, so that we can crush the foul Lizardmen.”

Why do the Humans compare all races to themselves? Lizardmen, Beastmen, Ratmen.

“I would be delighted to make him a captain in my fleet!”
“Renlisss was thinking more along the linesss of a partnership.”

Actually Renliss wanted to make Harkon a lieutenant, but Huan-kai talked him down to a partnership after relaying just how big Harkon’s crew was. Funny how both vampires automatically assume the other would automatically accept their command. Huan-kai wondered if the matching arrogance was a result of their vampirism, humanity, the Von Carstein bloodline, or a coincidence.

Harkon jerked his neck then spoke in a slightly different voice. Much louder than before.

“Unacceptable! I am far stronger. Renliss will serve me. The strongest rule. That is the Von Carstein way!”
“How do you know you are stronger than sssomeone you haven’t met?”
“I am Grand Commodore Harkon. My strength is comparable to that of a god!”
His friendly air vanished in an instant. Humility is something that Humans can’t reanimate then…

“Renlissss is being generousss offering an alliance. He hasss never done that before.”
“Serving me as captain is generous! A quick death is generous!”

Harkon drew his cutlass and chopped off the zombie’s head.

Mahrlect that hurts!

Huan-kai felt a sharp phantom pain in his neck, but the pain dissipated quickly. The massive headache that followed did not fade so quickly. Psychic feedback is the real reason necromancers rarely apt for direct control of their minions. He conjured a shadowy Terradon to fly him off but only made it about hundred yards when he lost focus and crashed.

Owww, better go on foot

After running all the way back to Renliss’ army, the skeletons and zombies did not respectfully part for him. Huan-kai muscled his way through the crowd. Renliss looked down on him disdainfully.

“I presume from your extremely swift return that the diplomatic mission was not successful?”
“Indeed Lord Renlisssss. Unlike other vampire Humanssss, Grand Admiral Harkon issss very arrogant. He will never ssserve another.”
“I expected as much. We will force Harkon’s forces to join us, one way or the other.”
Mar 6, 2012
Dead Water Part Three: Skirmish

“The zombie sailorssss that I saw outnumbered our—I mean your—total forces by at leasssst two-to-one. There could have easily been more undead in the ship holdsss or even under the water. He could easily keep his ethereal minionssss hidden at most times like you do, though you should keep Kayishen hidden away far more often.”

Kayishen let out a hiss that would have made any Lustrian python proud, but Huan-kai kept talking.

“I saw fell bats sssleeping in the riggings, roughly as many as you control, lord.”

Renliss looked unimpressed.

“Do they have anything to rival our reanimated beasts?”
“Nothing larger than ogresss that I could see, but what worries me is the gunssss. At least a quarter of the zombies were carrying handguns and many of the ships have cannonsss. The main ship has a very large cannon.”

Renliss waved that off.

“Without magical ammunition, it’s almost impossible to have non-sapient undead shoot accurately. One zombie gunner would take the concentration to control of a hundred conventional zombies. The guns are for show like his pretending to pay his troops.”
“You said the Nehkharans use many archerssss.”
“They have arrows specially blessed by their gods, Harkon couldn’t possibly have blessed bullets.”
“Maybe, maybe not. Harkon doesn’t seem to follow the normal rulesss for magic. The guns are in too good repair to be just for Harkon’sss eccentricity.”

Renliss paused a long time scratching his chin.

“That is of no concern. We have a psychological advantage we can exploit.”
“Because we are sane and he is not?”
“No—well yes, but this is more than his quirks. He is too territorial. He dwells primarily on a wrecked ship for nostalgia and he patrols a stretch of water to plunder that almost no one sails on. If we fight him away from the coastline, his home turf, he will lose confidence. He wills submit or face Final Death.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Huan-kai had a lot of new things to get used to after he died. He no longer needed to breathe except to speak or smell. He considered this a boon at first, until he released that despite most of his muscles were stronger and more tireless than before his lungs had atrophied. Blowpipes were not a practical weapon anymore, so he was glad that he had cross-trained with javelins with the Sotek caste during his breathing days, not that he had a lot of opportunities to engage in hit-and-run ranged attacks in Renliss’ army.

It had been a long time since he contemplated breathing or the lack thereof. Now that he was slowly wading along the bottom of the ocean, the weirdness hit him. Swimming underwater was not the same as swimming on the surface. Even with his vampiric strength and stamina continuing to shadow a moving boat was not easy. Maybe I should really Shadow[/i] the boat[/i]. Stupid pun aside, Huan-kai looked at the barnacles on the ship and fashioned a large shadow construct copy of one, then trailed a rope of solid darkness and hitched a ride. A lot easier than swimming.

One of Kayishen’s spectral ex-body guards from her living day sank down into the water and headed towards Huan-kai, pointed at him, then ascended out of the water. The signal was easily noticeable from the faint flow the wraith projected in the water. Huan-kai resisted the impossible urge to take a deep breath and then extended his concentration above the water reaching out to one of the Fell Bats being directed by Kayishen. Kayishen relinquished her indirect control and Huan-kai adjusted to seeing and hearing as bats do. Seeing and hearing as undead mutated bats at least.

It was jarring but Huan-kai had enough experience directing Shadow constructs that this was achievable even with the magical interference Harkon (unknowingly?) generated. If anything, direct control of undead was the one aspect of necromancy that came to Huan-kai naturally. Through the Fell Bat, he saw that the ship was out of sight of the nearest friendly vessels. Shortly thereafter, Fell Bats, zombified Terradons and pretty much every one of Renliss’ minions capable of prolonged hovering over water swooped in to attack. Some of the zombies fired handguns at them almost at random. One was lucky enough to put a hole in a Terradon’s wing causing it to lose altitude very slowly while Kayishen revealed herself and began screaming at various undead deck hands exchanging blows with the flyers. Huan-kai didn’t wait to see the Terradon crash into the water. Kayishen’s diversion wouldn’t last forever.

Huan-kai relinquished control of his Fell Bat and marshaled all his inner strength to overcome Harkon’s magic dampening effect. As Renliss surmised it was reduced but not eliminated at this distance from Harkon. Huan-kai attempted to craft a giant shadowy sword but only managed to craft a triangular shiv that would have shamed an Orc weapon smith. It still got the job done, puncturing a jagged hole in the hull. Even that crude construct was draining enough that Huan-kai barely had the strength to move out of the way of the sinking ship.

The former Chameleon Skink had little time to catch his breath, figuratively speaking. The next phase of Renliss’ plan was for Huan-kai to eliminate the ship’s whole allotment of zombie pirates. Renliss assured him that most Humans, even sailors, cannot swim and that zombies never swim. He also said that Zombies also don’t shoot guns, so Huan-kai refused to let his guard down. This was an experiment as much as anything.

Zombies, like most corpses, tend to float in salt water. Fortunately, some were weighed down by gear they couldn’t or wouldn’t drop and most were pulled down by the ship. Given that sinking ship act like whirl pools, the Humans probably wouldn’t have escaped even if they were alive and knew how to swim.

As slow as Huan-kai was underwater, the zombies were more impaired and could barely move let alone defend themselves, though they gave their level best to claw the reptilian vampire apart. Slowly and steadily the water around the wreckage was filled with suspended body parts attracting a huge slew of eels, crabs, and other bottom feeders.

Kayishen herself floated down towards him when about half the zombies were accounted for. Huan-kai had no idea how incorporeal creatures handled the water, but the witch seemed to be moving okay. He opened his mouth to shout “you could be helping you know!” but only exhaled a bubble awkwardly. Kayishen laughed at this. Then laughed harder when she realized she could still talk where Huan-kai couldn’t

Forgot you were underwater?"

Huan-kai ignored her and kept attacking zombies trying to focus on the task at hand. They couldn’t use their swords and axes completely while submerged, but a few had serviceable short knives and one managed to draw a small amount of blood with a hooked hand.

Oh my! That was clumsy! I thought Skinks were naturally aquatic."

Must ignore her, do not react.

He drowned out her taunts and kept slashing at zombies.

Did you notice that you have an eel nibbling at your tail?"

Huan-kai shook his tail and hit a fleshy living creature. This led to the witch giving a long tirade about how dull his senses have gotten post-mortem, made all the worse by the fact that it was true, at least for tactile senses. Huan-kai decided to internally ponder ways to destroy Kayishen. What kind of shadow construct he’d use, how to time the attack so Renliss didn’t have time to recall Kayishen’s spirit. That cheered him up as he was finishing up with the last of the zombies.

Wait! Stop!"

What now?

Huan-kai tried for his best underwater glare.

Our orders…"

Renliss had wanted at least one zombie brought back “alive” and he had eviscerated all the zombies around him. Huan-kai sighed inwardly and swam to the surface towards the small number of floating reanimated corpses. Unfortunately, these zombies could actually swim and fight surprisingly decently on the surface of the water, so it took some effort than Huan-kai to disarm the “healthiest” looking zombie. Huan-kai conjured a simple shadow construct to harness it, then began towing it back. He pulled it underwater so he wouldn’t be spotted if Harkon sent other ships to investigate the sinking. It was slow working towing a corpse across the bottom of the sea. Kayishen’s greatest regret from her lost life was the diminished power of her formerly enchanted voice, so one would think she would not like to hear herself talk. Unfortunately, she did not want to waste the opportunity of Huan-kai not being able to speak and heckled him the whole way back. When he finally exited the water, Huan-kai had come up with three highly detailed scenarios for destroying the banshee. Huan-kai didn’t bother talking back to Kayishen when they were hauling the zombie overland, which was just as well since Kayishen had begun to run out of fresh taunts. Renliss’ pet necromancer, Mordrek, was standing at the edge of Renliss’ camp.

“Took you long enough.”

A fine greeting to welcome back the conquering heroes. Huan-kai was far too tired and angry against Kayishen to waste ire against the stupid necromancer. Because of Harkon’s tendency to have lengthy conversations with his crew, Renliss wanted to be able to tell for sure if his minions bore any semblance of a personality. He also wanted to see how they were able to shoot guns and work rigging with what passes for amazing dexterity by zombie standards. Therefore, he needed to run tests on the zombie and when Renliss needs something done, he’ll make a minion do it immediately.

Fortunately, the tedious mystical experiments on the zombie were to be performed by Mordreck. Renliss didn’t have patience time to do something so boring. He wanted to work on his literal pet project and was spending all his waking moments trying to create an “Abyssal Terror” from assorted corpse leftovers warped by Phidas the captured Mutalith.

Huan-kai decided to name the creature Phidas to annoy Kayishen (since Phidas was one of the names of the false gods she once was a priestess for). Renliss was so sick of hearing Kayishen prattle on about the “True Old Ones” that let the name stick.

Huan-kai could not read human facial expressions particularly well, but he could tell Modrek gave was giving him a lot of dirty looks. He was jealous that the Lizardman upstart had usurped his master's favor.

A very long time ago, Modrek had turned to necromancy merely to cheat his own death. Not having access to decent tomes from reputable sources, he sought out a vampire and found Renliss. Now the necromancer got to cheat death for the low, low price of being Renliss’ lackey for all eternity. Renliss either couldn’t or wouldn’t turn Modrek into a full vampire. It bothered Modrek immensely that Huan-kai, an enemy, received the “gift” of vampirism and that Renliss either couldn’t or wouldn’t give it to him. Modrek had certainly got a raw deal, but at the very least he could still eat food, not that he seemed to appreciate it.

Huan-kai saw the sad Human’s mind. His will had more or less been hollowed out. He seemed to lack the capacity to begrudge Renliss’ treatment of him, but he was left enough sense of self to be able to hold a grudge against the vampire Skink.

That’s fine.

Huan-kai pitied him too much to be angry or threatened by Mordrek. Once he commented to Renliss that he was lucky to find a Human so obsessed with his own mortality that Renliss could ensnare him. Renliss assured him that seekers like that were so common that vampires usually simply exsanguinated the would-be seekers and only kept the best ones.

That was probably the biggest culture shock about Humans. There are oddities in every group, so it’s not surprising that one or two Humans would have the unusual combination of being smart enough to master wizardry yet dumb enough to willingly seek out vampiric patrons. What was odd was that dozens of Humans every generation would seek that path. If Huan-kai had to sum up the Fourth Race in one word, he would say they are “contradictory.”

The First Children of the Old Ones do not fear death like Humans. Sure, Skinks may not be as fearless as Sauri, but being skittish and cautious around potential dangers is not the same as fixating on one’s inevitable death like the way Humans seemed to do. At least that was Huan-kai’s initial thought on the subject. More and more, Huan-kai’s mind wandered to his own death “or Final Death” as Sylvanian vampires called it. He wasn’t sure if his feelings about his own Final Death were of fear or hope.

Too tired to give Mordrek a second thought, Huan-kai finished his report to Renliss. Renliss acted like Harkon was dealt a major blow, but Huan-kai didn’t buy it. While Renliss had lost a smaller proportion of his total force than Harkon did, it took over a month of set up an ambush for a single ship. It would take thirty consecutive sorties like that to bring Harkon to heel. Renliss looked on the zombie “prisoner of war” as if it would solve all their problems. Humans tend to miss the jungle for the trees. In this case he was fixating on a single leaf. After dismissal, Huan-kai found a loamy patch of soil to dig a hole in. He crawled in and covered himself with loose soil and leaves hoping he’d get to sleep at least a week.
Mar 6, 2012
Dead Water, Part Four: Challenge

Vampires can go for long periods of time without sleep but when they do sleep, they sleep like…well dead people. Mordrek melodramatically called a vampire’s sleep “the little deaths.” He didn’t know if he slept twelve hours or twelve weeks but he woke up refreshed despite being poked with a stick by Mordreck earlier than he would have naturally woken up. Reflexively Huan-kai hissed threateningly at the necromancer upon waking but Mordreck was far too used to waking Lord Renliss that he didn’t even react to Huan-kai’s predatory display in the slightest.

I bet he never pokes Renliss with a stick…

“Lord Renliss wishes to brief you on your role in our final offensive against Grand Commodore Harkon.”

Huan-kai looked up dramatically at the constellations.

“Either you woke me up within a month of when I laid down or ten years have passssed. Please tell me you spent ten yearsss whittling down Harkon’s forces.”
“It’s been nine days you smartass tadpole.”

The last word was delivered in almost passable Saurian. Someone been spending his free time with Kayishen.

I should ask Lord Renlisssss if foul smelling necromancers make good fertilizer.
“I said, ‘by all means, Lord Renlissss must not be kept waiting.’”

* * * * * * * * * *

Huan-kai had woken up so refreshed because the Night of the Baleful Moon was nearing, called “Geheimnisnacht” in Reikspiel. Renliss was trying to see if Huan-kai was bothered that he was getting stronger on the day when the Slann were typically weakest. That hadn’t even crossed his mind. Huan-kai never felt particular close to the Slann. What bothered him was that Renliss acted like the Night of the Baleful Moon was a perfect time to attack Harkon. Huan-kai had spotted a flaw so obvious a moron could have seen it, possibly even Kayishen.

“Undead are sssstronger on ‘Geheimnisnacht.’ Won’t that help Harkon too?”

Renliss just smirked and mounted his new pet, the abyssal terror stitched together from several dead great beasts. As disgusting as the abomination was, Huan-kai was struck with fascination with how such an ungainly creature could fly while supporting a fully armed and armored Human vampire. I wonder what I should name it…

Renliss prepared the battle lines while Huan-kai flew ahead riding a construct Terradon. The shadowy flyer carried a single zombie in his claws. Renliss’ plan seemed so ludicrous that Huan-kai couldn’t decide whether Renliss was trying to get him killed or if he had somehow contracted Harkon’s madness. He didn’t know which one to hope for.

The sun set officially beginning the Night of the Baleful Moon. Huan-kai felt almost brimming with power. Almost as strong as when a Slann was channeling magic through him, only this time he was in control. The power was so intoxicating that for a moment Huan-kai understood why Renliss felt so confident about his chances. Don’t forget that Harkon is feeling this too, I must not buy into Renliss’ overconfidence.

Huan-kai had always struggled to make up for the loss of his living chameleon skin, but on this night a cantrip of concealment was positively easy. He melded into the shadows without leaving so much as a Skink shaped outline. Controlling the zombie while maintaining full awareness of his own surroundings seemed as easy as hitting a tallisaurus in a pit trap.

Experimentally, he had his zombie puppet pick up a glob of shadows with a simple cantrip and craft it into a knife. It worked. Huan-kai slightly felt better about Renliss’ plan. He could do this from a distance and minimize his risk—much like Slann with their vassals. He thought about the Nka-Lot, the Skink Priest who had been more or less lobotomized form serving a Slann’s arcane vassal too many times and immediately felt guilty. This is different. Because it’s a Human? No because it’s a dead Human. It has no thoughts or feelings.

Then again, to a Slann, a Skink must seem like an ant.

“Shut up, me!”

Let’s start Renliss’ stupid plan.

Hua-kai focused on the task at hand and directed his arcane vassal forward. His Human zombie puppet was actually a Tilean sailor that Renliss had slain long ago. It was hoped that a zombie sailor could blend in with the crowd. Hua-kai was not so sure. For starters, he could sense a clearly different aura from Harkon’s minions then from Renliss’. He could even sense a different aura when Mordreck or Kayishen were controlling a portion of Renliss’ minions. He figured his zombie would stand out like a Kroxigor amongst Skinks, but it did not seem to be an issue so far. Harkon had thousands of minions, so he couldn’t check each one. He was also very self-absorbed so wouldn’t be looking. The main concern were his wight lieutenants. They only had a tiny bit more working brain cells than the zombies, but Huan-kai didn’t know what their sensory abilities were like.

Stupid puddle brained plan. So many things can go wrong.

The zombie sailor blended in with Harkon’s mob following their actions vaguely, gradually trying to sneak up to Harkon’s flagship. The zombies seemed friskier than the other times Huan-kai had spied on them. Presumably they were enjoying the fresh Geheimnisnacht air. Renliss’ scheme seemed to be working as none of the undead pirates seemed to notice the “foreign” zombie in their midst, but now the plan was about to get more dangerous. Huan-kai had to creep closer to Harkon’s harbor in order to maintain control of his puppet as it approached the Grand Commodore. Cloaked in shadows or not, Huan-kai did not like to be this close without reinforcements. If his magic failed on him, he’d be very exposed to any of Harkon’s roving sentries.

None of the wight-led patrol groups spotted Huan-kai and none of the massed undead seemed to notice or care that his puppet was boarding the beached flagship where Harkon held “court,” or whatever Humans call it. Huan-kai noticed that Harkon’s wights (who he gave a wide berth with both his own body and that of his puppet) seemed to be able to direct zombie mobs reasonably well, but Harkon treated his “first officers,” Mister Anders and Mister Wilson, with more deference despite the fact that they were mindless zombies.

Now Renliss’ plan was about to get really dangerous. Through his puppet, Huan-kai reached out into Harkon’s mind. Entering a vampire lord’s mind is no mean feat, especially through a zombie conduit.

“Mr. Wilson, it’s a special night tonight, but we don’t want the men to drink too much and get out of line. We don’t need more brawls like last year.”

There was a pause. Harkon shook his head as if he were trying to get water out of his ear. Then resumed his conversation. Huan-kai was in, but he didn’t dare probe deeper than his surface thoughts. Amazingly, he heard a husky voice reply from a zombie’s unmoving lips.

“Aye sir! I will make sure strict discipline is kept tonight.”

Harkon left his ship and began moving amongst the land-based zombie mobs and visiting the non-wrecked ships in the harbor, having conversations with his mute men the whole way through. It was not too difficult for Huan-kai to have his puppet follow Harkon’s entourage. Huan-kai listened for hours. Amazingly each zombie had a slightly different voice in Harkon’s head, as if they were real living Humans. Huan-kai listened intently to pick up names, voices, and nautical jargon.

Now the part where I die for Renliss. Better start with something along the lines of what Harkon expects.

Hoping he didn’t mess up the Reikspiel, Huan-kai focused on Harkon’s imagined voice for his second officer and crafted new speech in Harkon’s mind.

“Sir, there is a fight breaking out between the crews of the Saucy Mare and the Sodden Dwarf!”

Harkon twitched. Amazingly, two of the zombie mobs immediately started wailing on each other. His delusions so strong that he subconsciously ordered his minions to carry out the scene in his mind. Between their rigor mortis and the brimming energies of the Night of the Baleful moon, the brawlers could barely hurt each other but nearly a dozen lost a limb and two or three were bashed into non-animateable mulch before Harkon’s first officers quickly restored order.

Hooray! I’ve potentially exposed myself to eliminate two zombies. Time to double down stupid plan…

Huan-kai set up two more similar instances until he thought Harkon was livid enough for the final push.

“Mister Wilson! What is going on!”

“Sir, the men are mutinying. They are saying Lord—I mean Admiral Renliss, would be a better leader than you!

From there it took little to goad Harkon into a hasty offensive. Huan-kai made sure one of the scouts’ voices gave an accurate location of Renliss’ forces but an inaccurate account of Renliss’ army’s numbers. The Grand Commodore marshaled his forces at once, barking orders at the zombie sailors who were instinctually following his wishes anyway.

Renliss plan is actually working? I guess he knows his crazy vampires. Perhaps it takes one to know one

The line was led by a small flock of Fell Bats with some of the undead dogs running close behind them, followed by the zombie sailors. As Huan-kai estimated, Harkon’s zombie soldiers outnumbered Renliss’ skeletons and zombies by about two-to-one though he lacked any large undead apart from some ogres and Renliss had many larger skeletons and zombies interspersed in his ranks. Most of the cannons were attached to the ships, but Harkon’s crew brought along four, including one very large cannon with a large honor guard.

Harkon patted the huge gun affectionately, "Let the upstart hear your thunder, Queen Bess". Huan-Kai was curious to see if the weapon replied in Harkon's mind but it remained resolutely silent.

Huan-kai expected that Harkon would have reinforcements not visible from his casual scouting, and Harkon did not disappoint. Hundreds of rats poured out of the ship holds in massive swarms. There were far fewer incorporeal troups than he would guessed though: only three spectral Human females. They looked a lot like Kayishen, with the same purplish glow that differentiated her from her melee oriented body guards and the non-sapient spirit swarms. Their ghostly forms were clearly soaked and their clothes were in tatters as if they died drowning and their spirits reflected their former bodies.

Then came out what was likely to be the pride of Harkon’s force. Three giant crabs emerged from the most sargassum-filled part of the bay. They were easily the size of adult Stegadons. Huan-kai had only heard rumors about creatures like that, but had long figured the seas held more than the fair share of titanic monsters. They moved somewhat slowly and awkwardly as they scuttled sideways on land, but it was a safe bet their thick shells would be a hard to penetrate. The three waddling sea monsters interspersed themselves evenly among Harkon’s vast hordes.

Huan-kai weighed his options. He wasn’t sure who would win the battle, but he was fairly certain this battle would not be a sufficient distraction to allow him to escape Renliss. Even if Harkon won, he doubted Renliss would meet his Final Death today. He sensed that Renliss as his vampiric sire would be able to track him with relative ease. Also, Renliss plan was working so far. Huan-kai’s curiosity bade him not to sit out this battle. He might as well see if he could continue messing with the lunatic vampire lord’s head. It might be good practice for later.
Mar 6, 2012
Dead Water, Part Five: War

Huan-kai (almost literally) shadowed Harkon’s forces as they marched towards their foe. Renliss had chosen a location that would force Harkon to march through several large marshes but the pirate zombies had enough experience with shallow water that out of at least a thousand zombies, only two or three got stuck in the mire. Then they hit the pit and spike traps that Renliss made Mordreck hastily prepare. This did slightly better, but zombies aren’t slowed down nearly as much as the living by such trifles. One of the zombies curiously exploded in a gaseous cloud after getting stuck on a spike. After losing about two dozen zombies to those traps, Harkon ordered his giant crab monsters to take point and clear a path.

After about an hour and half of marching, Harkon’s forces connected with Renliss’ forces. First to hit the lines were the rats. It was almost laughable how little Renliss’ zombies and skeletons reacted to being swarmed with disgusting vermin. To be fair, Renliss had summoned hundreds of bats from the jungles and they were also accomplishing next to nothing. Harkon’s powerful Fell Bats began aerial battles with Renliss flyers which also included many Fell Bats raised from Lustrian bats fed on vampiric blood in addition to a wide variety of reptilian and avian flyers. Both vampire lords’ Fell Bats looked the same to Haun-kai but the bats (and the other flyers) seemed to know who was on their side and who wasn’t.

The dead Humanoids were easier to tell apart. Renliss forces held dirty orange banners and the pirates all had banners with variations of the skull and crossbones. Renliss’ forces included a vast menagerie of races of the world including non-traditional zombies such as Cold Ones and giant spiders while at least nine tenths of Harkon’s forces were Human.

You haven’t seen clumsy fighting until you’ve seen two massive mobs of zombies have at each other. The pirate zombies seemed slightly more skillful than Renliss’ zombies, about at the same level as Renliss’ skeletons which isn’t saying a whole lot. Bodies piled up quite slowly as both sides had trouble hitting hard enough to down any enemy that doesn’t actually need most of their internal organs.

One exception was that some of the bloated zombies on Harkon’s side would rush at a pack of the enemy and explode, releasing corrosive gasses. Apparently the zombie that exploded on the spike wasn’t unique. It probably would have been unspeakably devastating to living troops, but it was less effective against the unfeeling undead. At best, Harkon’s suicidal zombie grenades only seemed to take out three or four enemies per pop. Those at the center of the blast radius would be literally melted into puddles of goo, but the ones merely splashed seemed indifferent to having their post-necrotic flesh slowly sizzling away.

Renliss’ most elite soldiers, the former Maylar Guard of the lost city of Turochlitan, attempted to fight their way towards the locations of Harkon’s shipwights which were actually bringing down a number of the enemy. Harkon only had about a half dozen wights under his command but they moved with a speed and agility not only outstripping most undead, but they outclassed most elite living soldiers as well. His second most elite soldiers, the ghoul-like Quatlixa, were faring very poorly. It had not escaped Harkon’s notice that these powerful soldiers were unarmored apart from patchy scales, so they attracted the lion’s share of the pirates’ mass shooting, so very few survived long enough to reach the enemy lines.

With no battle cries or screams of the wounded or dying, Haun-kai assumed this battle would be fairly quiet. He was wrong. The Fell Bats and about half of the reanimated dinosaurs would still periodically roar. A lot of Harkon’s zombies were packing handguns. Their shooting was so inaccurate and their guns so prone to misfire that they barely did more damage to the other side than to themselves. That was assuming they could even fire at all. With how soggy the area was it was a miracle that any of them could keep their powder dry. Still nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for the guns. Earlier on his scouting mission, some of the zombies tried to shoot him underwater a few times before wising up and using the hand guns as clubs.

The cannons were both noticeably louder and noticeably more accurate, but they had a slow start. Huan-kai thought Renliss was too hasty in choosing his battle site, but he had at least picked a clearing with a hill formation that forced the cannons to deploy much closer than normal, so they got fewer shots off before the main melee ensued. Queen Bess had managed to destroy a young bull Carnosaur zombie with a single blast and the smaller cannons had been doing a number on the reanimated Stegadon that served as a makeshift Black Coach for Renliss’ sire.

Huan-kai wondered how Renliss would react to this. Living or dead, Humans are contradictory creatures. On one level Renliss desperately wanted to resurrect his old master, on the other level he clearly liked being in charge. He was not about to abandon his chances to revive his master at this stage though. Mordreck made his way towards the Black Coach Stegadon and seemed to be doing nothing but channeling necromantic magic into the beast and the soldiers around it. Good luck Human, if you don’t succeed I’m sure Renliss will perforate your neck.

Heard above even the cannons and gunfire was the spectral witch. Kayishen seemed to be having a banshees’ duel with her three aquatic counterparts. The three drowned ghost women began with a brief vaguely pleasant dirge that might have mesmerized weak-willed mortals but did not work here since the only living creatures in the vicinity were a Mutalith and some mind-controlled bats. The three sirens quickly resorted to banshee wails which Kayishen joined in with gusto. Neither side seemed to be hurting the other but the sound was grating, even at a distance. Could she be doing this just to annoy me? No, she doesn’t even know I’m here.

The zombified dinosaurs that had avoided cannon fire were taking out a fair number of zombified sailors. Renliss’ only living minion, his pet Mutalith, Phidas, was fighting one of the giant crabs in the northern flank of the battle. It was hard to tell who was winning since Phidas seemed too weak to penetrate the crab’s shell and the crab too slow to hit the Mutalith. The two giant combatants seemed to be surrounded by a growing bank of dark fog. The Mutalith was instinctually trying to mutate the foes around it, but Phidas’ natural warping power was reacting in the air with the anti-magic effect that Harkon and his minions radiated. The fact that the Mutalith was drawing in Harkon’s defenses was probably the sole reason why Mordreck was able to successfully heal so many fallen undead soldiers.

Perhaps I can take advantage of the Mutalith’s power sink as well. Once assured none of Harkon’s minions were within fifty yards of him, Huan-kai released his shadowy spell of concealment. He pointed his palms downward to pull at the ambient mystical energy in the earth and marshalled his forces to summon a Pit of Shades to try to consume a squad of zombie ogres but only managed to summon a harmless miasma of dark smoke which dissipated in seconds. A seeming electric shock threw the Skink into the nearest tree. Uninjured except for his pride. He tried to summon a withering miasma on the ogres as they charged into a unit of Saurus and Orc skeletons, but that spell also came out as a feeble harmless mist. Nevermind magic then. I wonder where Renliss is?

One might think Renliss would be searching out his rival, Harkon, but he only tended to seek out the face enemy leaders who are spellcasters. Harkon was definitely not a spell caster despite his innate ability to command undead. Once he ascertained that Harkon was unwilling to fire his cannons at the risk of hitting his own forces, Renliss spurred his Abyssal Steed into battle,landing on top of the giant crab on the southern flank of Harkon’s army. He was slowly hacking his way through the creatures thick shell with a flame wreathed obsidian sword that once belonged to a Saurus Scar Veteran.

The battle line became jagged as Renliss forces advanced in some areas and were pushed back in others. Apart from the giant crabs and a few ogres, Harkon’s army lacked heavy hitters and his sailors were losing ground where ever they faced a unit of Renliss’ elites. With the numbers advantage and their slightly greater dexterity, Harkon’s men were slowly pushing back Renliss’ forces in every place that lacked reanimated dinosaurs or ethereal hosts for backup. Renliss’ spirit hosts were wracking up the highest count of casualties for outcast vampire side, well the landlubber outcast vampire’s side. They could barely hurt the pirates, but the zombies couldn’t hurt their spectral attackers at all. At least not until one of Harkon’s shipwights entered the fray and began discorporating the swarming specters with a magical saber.

I suppose if want Renliss to win that’s where I should go.

Huan-kai threw a javelin in to the block of zombie pirates, confident that he couldn’t miss with them so densely packed. Next, he drew his sword and began hacking his way towards the wight through a sea of zombies. I need to get the wight to focus on me. I’ve been in watching Harkon long enough; I can get this to work. Huan-kai verbalized and telepathically projected what he hoped was a suitably cheesy pirate challenge.

“Aarrgh! Too sssscared to face me land lugger!”

The shipwight made an inarticulate sound that was clearly expressed defiance, and the zombies created a path to let the wight reach the funny talking Skink. The wight pirate was fast and agile for a dead Human. Huan-kai wish he prepared the relatively simple Miasma of Xlanhapec that day, rather than the more temperamental Withering spell he couldn’t seem to summon the energy to cast. The Human struck so fast, Huan-kai was barely able to parry his opening attempt to impale his heart. A few more attacks and parries later, Huan-kai got his foe’s measure and was able to parry his attacks more easily. He tried a few attacks himself, but they were all deflected easily, forcing Huan-kai to change tactics. He focused primarily on defense while his attacks became seemingly sloppier, occasionally leading to him dismembering zombies that got too close to help the Spirit Hosts in their task. The number of zombies dwindled steadily. After several minutes of deadlocked dueling. The two undead lieutenants found themselves surrounded by a host of incorporeal spirits, all of which were on Renliss’ side. All the lesser undead pirates were dead and the backlash from so many of his allies falling pulled at the wight’s own reserve of animating energy and caused him to fall onto the moist ground, completely inert. Not one to take chances, Huan-kai chopped off his head to prevent him from rising again.

“Aaaarren’t that sssmart are you?”

His attempt at black humor was interrupted by another round of fresh banshee screams echoed across the battlefield and into his eardrums. Huan-kai felt a migraine coming on. Until now, he figured vampires couldn’t get migraines. He glanced over and saw that neither sides’ banshees seem to have hurt the other, but not for lack of trying. The combatants were surrounded by an oval shaped patch of gray dirt. All the ordinarily dense foliage was screamed into dust and blown away. By the Old Ones, just close into melee already!

A brief, sharp, pitiful, unearthly, and polyphonic yelp was heard above the din of the banshee contest. Huan-kai turned and saw Phidas, careening in a blind panic followed by a thin trail of yellowish brown ichor. For all his size and unearthly powers, Phidas was somewhat skittish, almost like a Huagerdon hatchling of colossal size. Though Phidas had wounded the crab a couple times, when the crab finally connected a blow on him, it was too much for the Mutalith. Phidas trampled on several zombies of both sides in his mad dash for escape into the jungle. Some zombies that got spattered with his blood began growing spikes and tentacles in odd places. I hope Renliss makes Kayishen or Modrek bring him back. I don't want to grow an extra tail.

A brief sharp, pitiful, unearthly, and disgusting yelp was heard above the din of the banshee contest. Huan-kai turned and saw Phidas, the Mutalith running in a blind panic followed by a thin trail of yellowish brown blood. For all his size and unearthly powers, Phidas was somewhat skittish, almost like a Huagerdon hatchling of colossal size. Though Phidas wounded the crab several time, when the crab finally connected blow on him, it was too much for the Mutalith. Phidas trampled on several zombies of both sides in his mad dash for escape into the jungle. Some zombies that got spattered with his blood began growing spikes in odd places. I hope I Renliss makes Kayishen or Mordreck bring him back.

As the spirits hosts near him regrouped in search of a new target, Haun-kai climbed a hill for a better view. Renliss had directed his bats to cease their useless harassment campaign against the zombies in order to provide air support for his heavier flyers. About three quarters of Renliss’ flyers seemed to have perished but all of Harkon’s flyers were out of commission, so Renliss had total air superiority. The remaining flyers were swooping to take out the crewmen of the smaller cannons, which freed up Mordreck to spend less energy babysitting Renliss’ sire and allowed him to reverse losses elsewhere. The various flyers all left the Queen Bess alone. Harkon was personally eviscerating any enemy that got near his baby, so Renliss opted not to needlessly throw away his flyers by sending them into the Grand Commodore’s blade.

A tug of mystic energy forced Huan-kai to turn towards Kayishen, she summoned enough magic to successfully fire black bolts of magical energy out of her eyes. A spell Renliss called the Gaze of Nagash, named after some dead necromancer that Huan-kai wondered why modern vampires would bother to honor. Once struck by Kayishen’s spell, the sirens let loose pitiful whimpers augmented to an earsplitting volume the way only banshees can achieve. The wails quickly petered out as the spirits dissolved into the moist jungle air. She turned towards the crab that had driven off poor Phidas and screamed at the gargantuan crustacean until the shell shattered. At least there was only one banshee left to make that gods awful noise. Renliss had since dispatched his first giant crab and was now hacking his way through zombie ogres.

With most of Harkon’s heavy hitters destroyed and with Renliss and Mordreck able to reanimate a portion of their own fallen warriors, the tide of battle was shifting against the zombie sailors—not that Renliss’ forces were unscathed. The Quatlixa were all slain and would be very difficult to restore as the Saurus Ghouls were not fully undead. The Maylar Guard cut down three wights but dozens of their members were piles of bones on the ground. The remnants of the unit were being crushed one at a time by the third giant crab.

Huan-kai decided to set his sights for the third and final shelled leviathan. Maybe he wanted bragging rights for hitting a big game target. Maybe it was because the creature reminded him of the coconut crabs that tried to bite his toes. As he summoned the winds of magic into palms the magic dampening effect made it feel like he was swimming in tar, but the former Skink priest refused to take no for an answer. He willed a massive pit under the crustacean and saw it tumble into oblivion. When the pit closed it felt like even from a distance it was trying to pull Huan-kai in too. He fell to his knees from the magic backlash. Blood was coming out of his snout and ears.

Huan-kai was in too much pain to focus on anyone else. He did not hear Kayishen’s uncharacteristically weak whimper as she sank into the swamp. He did not see Mordreck slump limply against the side of the zombie Stegadon he was trying to bolster, nor did he see Renliss slip out of his mount’s saddle and plummet to the ground.

The defeated Harkon saw everything, but he knew the moment of weakness amongst the enemy wizards would not last. He seized his chance to withdraw when he still had a large portion of his army intact. The zombies marched away carrying many of their inert brethren with them. Harkon needed time to reanimate some of his losses, make contact with his patrolling ships, and hopefully schedule a rematch on some time other than Geheimnisnacht since the baleful magic winds seemed to be aiding the upstart Renliss more than himself.

Renliss recovered from his fall fairly quickly and was on Huan-kai before the undead Chameleon Skink realized what happened. Kayishen was following behind, not bothering to hide her smirk.

“You let Harkon get away!”
“Me? What were you doing, you’re the commander!”
“I was killing the enemy until your clumsy miscast cost us the battle.”
“Cosssst us the battle? Harkon retreated didn’t he? I don’t know how the Fourth Race measures these things, but in Lustria we pronounce the army to take the field the winner!”
“I could have killed him!”
“You still can! Reanimate the dead and go after him, we know where he’sss going!”

Renliss looked like he wanted to argue, but he couldn’t fault the logic. Once they were out of range of Harkon’s magic dampening effect it was fairly simple to raise most of the casualties that Harkon hadn’t carried away with him. The Maylar Guard was always especially easy to reanimate no matter how battered (not surprising as they were dust when Renliss found them). Renliss turned to Huan-kai.

“You are going to take point, and you aren’t going to do any over the top magic spells!”

Huan-kai marched to the front of the Maylar Guard.


The Skink rounded on Renliss.

“Do you want me on point or not?”

Renliss waved his hand in contempt and the elite skeletons went slack. Huan-kai quickly took the reins and took place at the front of a marching column. Unfortunately, Renliss pointed for Kayishen to go with him. It was hard to tell which one of Renliss’ lieutenants was more upset by this.

The foliage thinned near the coast, they were able to see brief glimpses of the distant retreating backs of Huan-kai’s sailors. By the time they caught up, most of the zombie pirates were on ships and preparing them for departure. Over a dozen were securing the Queen Bess on to Harkon’s largest seaworthy ship. The decks were covered with piles of dead zombie sailors that Harkon evacuated. While Harkon did not having the ability to restore scores of zombies at a time like Renliss, Harkon’s pirates were “waking up” and crawling out of the piles in ones and twos.

Now, Renliss’ forces outnumbered Harkon’s about three-to-two but there was very little they could do to stop their enemies from merely sailing away. Dawn was minutes away and their energy boost from Geheimnisnacht would be gone. Huan-kai was about to order his temporary minions to what was a probably a futile charge when rapid movement on Harkon’s flagship made him pause.

Harkon was surrounded by a ring of zombie sailors with their weapons pointed at him.

What is he doing?"
“Mahrlect, this is too weird for wordsss.”

Across the deck an authoritative voice rung out.

“You won’t get away with this mutiny Mr. Wilson.”
There was a long pause punctuated only by the ambient jungle noises

“I will NEVER call you Captain Wilson.”

Several zombies pinned Harkon’s arms.

Could Renliss have seized control of the crew?
“No. Besides A small mob of zombies ssshould not be able to restrain a vampire lord even if he weren’t controlling them."
You entered his mind earlier…"
“Do you think if I had that kind of power, that you’d still be here talking to me—”
Verminous newt! My mind is inpenetrab—"

“You’ll regret this Wilson!”

Huan-kai and Kayishen turned to see Harkon was chained to the Queen Bes. Loosely enough that anyone with a vampire’s strength should have been able to escape.

“I will not give you the satisfaction of seeing me grovel before a lowborn petty officer such as yourself.”

Another pause, then they pushed Old Bess and Harkon alike into water.

If you can’t drown, Harkon can’t possibly drown…"
“You are assssume Harkon is going to start making sense now?”

A minute or two after Harkon sank out of sight, Huan-kai felt a pleasurable sensation as Harkon’s magical dampening effect was lifted. Then a magical shockwave burst across from where he fell into the water. Zombies on deck burst apart as if decades of decomposition asserted themselves all at once. A magical shockwave washed over all the nearby zombies obliterating them. Huan-kai and Kayishen turned to run, but the invisible wave hit them too.

Huan-kai felt like he was on fire, Kayishen screamed out in pain, and all the Maylar Guard fell into an inert lumps of bones. Then the feeling was gone.

Renliss and Mordreck caught up to them and were able to reanimate the elite skeletons. Whatever the after effects of Harkon’s seeming death were, the weakest undead were clearly hit the hardest. Huan-kai and Kayishen only felt a moment of pain. The Maylar Guard and undead dinosaurs went inert but were easily restored. A sizeable minority of Renliss’ lesser troops’ bodies were scattered beyond the ability to restore and the vast majority of Harkon’s forces were destroyed utterly.

The Queen Bess was hauled of the shallows using the very chains which once restrained the Grand Commodore. Every mundane and magical means of search employed seemed to back up the notion that Harkon had turned to dust and been dispersed by the water.

Renliss looked over the water skeptically.

“Without a visible body, I’m not sure he met his Final Death.”
“The backlassssh was the anti-magic disappearing, he must be dead. I was in hisss head. I think I understand what happened. His pride couldn’t handle being beaten but he was too much in love with immortality to kill himself, so his fractured mind filled in the gapsss”
“Are you sure he’s gone completely?”
“If Harkon were around I couldn’t do thisss—”

Huan-kai raised his hands and spoke a quick incantation. The Queen Bess fell into a shadowy pit and off the face of the earth. Renliss turned, snarling, then he took an unnecessary breath and calmed himself.

“No matter. I doubt we would have managed to operate it…”

Huan-kai was confused and angry.

“Why don’t you kill me?!?”
“I like having you to talk to.”
“I like having someone to talk to.”
“Talk to your zombiesss, Human!

(He used the derogatory Saurian inflection for ignorant warm blood)

“I’m not as far gone as Harkon.”

Not yet, you’re not.

For further support that Harkon was destroyed, none of Harkon’s intact fallen minions resisted their new master in the slightest. Over the next few weeks they returned to the site of the battle for any salvageable corpses or spirits. One shipwight was both intact and coherent enough to indicate to Renliss where Harkon’s hoard of treasure was buried. They were able to sail out and find three ships out at sea with completely dormant zombie crews that Renliss was able to requisition.

Huan-kai decided to poke the Carnosaur with a stick a few more times.

“So now that we have all these shipssss are you going to return back to Sylvania?”
“Acquiring a ship was never a problem, I’ll leave Lustria when I’m ready.”
“You are barely coming out of this with more minionsss than you started with. Was this worth it? What did you gain if not ships?”
“I have struck a blow against the Slann and their lackeys.”
“By conveniently clearing the Vampire Coassst. A feat the northern Temple Cities have been trying to do for centuriesss?”
“Nonsense, after they realized what Harkon was doing they left him alone.”
“And what exactly was he doing besides babbling at zombiesss?”
“He attacked ships bound for Lustria. Thinned out the herd of would-be invaders.”
“I’m not buying it. Invaders have jusssst sailed around the Vampire Coast.”
“But Harkon still caught a few bad navigators. Once the Old World realizes the Vampire Coast is no more, more looters will come. Regardless of if they win or the Lizardmen, the Lizardmen will take some losses and I can reanimate the losers.”
“I still think the First are getting the better of you from this transaction.”
“Mark my words, Nothing good for the Lizardmen will come of this.”

* * * * * * * * * *

To enact their mightiest magical working, Slann must be fully awake and alert, but a hibernating Slann has more than enough residual focus to maintain a number of effects. Not viewing it as worth the trouble to eliminate Luthor Harkon, an alternate plan was enacted to place him in check. The last attack the First Children of the Old Ones attempted upon Harkon’s fleet was in fact a ruse to provide cover to allow the Slann to place on him the magical dampening effect to simultaneously cap his army at a manageable size while giving him a potent defense against the wizardry of Old World invaders to Lustria. This complex sorcery was maintained by none other than Xixlatel (Zee-slah-tell), the Second Generation Slann presiding over Xlanhuapec, the City of Mists.

The ripples from the faltering spell that occurred upon Harkon’s death were felt by magically sensitive beings throughout Lustria. Since Xixlatel was most directly tied to the dampening effect, he felt the ripples most strongly and began to stir into wakefulness.
Oct 18, 2014
Woohoo! Dead lizards! My second favourite kind!

I have read your other "Vampire and Friends in Lustria" stuff. This time I can see that Renliss has bigger designs that just existing in a hollow state of unlife. I wonder where he is going next.

If you ever have a fan-art idea in mind drop me a line - I specialize in stick lizards, stick men and blob ogres. A stick man with fangs shouldn't be TOO much of a stretch.

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
I like these stories. Especially the manipulation. Seriously, can ash speak to you? And a very good plan by the Slann. Enemy of my enemy is my unwitting slave. Keep it up!:thumbsup:
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