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TVC - (Supplemental Piece) - The Ancients

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Dark Lord Nihilus

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#1
A wraith, to stride the labyrinthine paths.

Unto riches and glory, do they lead, til avarice takes its hold upon the gluttoned soul, its poisoned tendrils choke the heart and steal the breath.

With solemn tread, the ghostly procession marches forth unto damnation, the gate of hell thrown open, to accept the willingly tormented.

To tread blood soaked earth, the shattered souls drunk upon carnage, a maddened glean within their eye. Horrified at the earthly insanity which claws at their minds and the pain which pierces their hearts, they drown their despair in a sea of blood, hacking at the closest of friends.

To hear, as the malignant consort with demons and supplicate themselves before stones. They gain naught save depravity, as they reduce themselves to beasts.

To watch, as those same demons sprout glorious wings, wreathed in divine light, to consort with the holy.

To stare, as civilizations rise and fall to dust, as conquerors enslave nations and die lost to time, as the universe belches forth its splendor to collapse upon itself hoarding its treasures.

I have traveled far, my soul lost to my pursuits yet for once the universe acknowledged, time frozen by my will, its secretes mine to plunder.

What gods stand before our divine wrath?
What devil surpasses our debauchery?
What beasts fail to cower?
What celestial stands unbowed, as conquerors do ride, as the divinely damned roar forth their defiance unto the void?

Rise mortal, may the heavens quake at your stride, scream forth your righteous hatred, the void will not consume your soul.

Your fire shall blaze, testament to your struggles, to your failures, to your triumphs.

Slave or god, prince or prisoner, servant or king, the cosmos shall tremble at your passage.


The familiar words resounded in his mind, drawing him back to reality.

Cerberus’ eyelids fluttered open. He beheld a gargantuan blue green eye staring at him intensely. Cerberus leapt back, startled, smashing his head against a jutting rock and lapsing back into unconsciousness yet again.
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#2
RE: The Ancients

Cool air rushed under his wings, flicking water droplets off his glistening scales. The sun was high in the sky, its heat warming his cold blood, invigorating him.

With grace which bellied his size, the dragon alighted upon a massive rock jutting from the earth. He stared into the clear sky to the east. Massive dark grey clouds were encroaching from the west, laden with the waters of life. Creatures scuttled to and fro, seeking shelter from the rain storm which was approaching quickly, at ease with the majestic being which crouched within their presence.

Dark shapes looming in the skies to the north, caught the dragon’s attention. They slowed as they approached, far to massive to be fellow dragons. As they grew larger and larger as they approached, they landed many miles to the north, overshadowing the mountains which lay beside them.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the great dragon launched itself into the sky. He made haste to investigate the mysterious arrivals.

The heavens boomed, jagged arcs of lightning splitting the sky, and rain fell, blanketing the world in the eerie calm of the storm.


Awaken

With the force of a thunderclap the voice forced Cerberus back to consciousness.

He awoke in a subterranean grotto, a water swirled around him. Cerberus sat upon a boulder amidst a stream. A few meters to his left lounged a massive dragon. His scales were blue flecked with green, his eyes the color of the sea.

The dragon’s glare held the same intensity, curiosity brimmed within the recesses of its ancient eyes.

You do not remember.

Its voiced resonated within Cerberus’ mind, yet it had not worked its jaw.

Strangely Cerberus was at ease with the great beast.

“Great wyrm of the depths, why have you brought me to your abode?”

The dragon chuckled.

Kaito, you have returned to us.
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#3
RE: The Ancients

“Kaito….?”

The name sounded so familiar.

Yes.

“What secrets do you with hold from me beast?”

The dragon chuckled.

You wish to know, truly?

The dragon stared at him with such intensity that he flinched.

Do I dare?

“Speak, for I shall not bow my head to lies and live in ignorance.”

What appeared to be a smile contorted the dragon’s great visage.

Very well. You are a dragon of ancient origin, perhaps the oldest surviving being to walk this world. It was you who conducted negotiations with the race known as the Old Ones when they arrived upon our abode, you who learned mush of their art, and you who lead us against the hordes of chaos when the great gates of the Old Ones collapsed in upon themselves. To the north of the now great nation known as Cathay, you led the once primitive humans to stand against the might of chaos, and your sacrifice which ensured their survival. Ever since they have worshipped the Celestial Dragon, and their Emperor a descendant of the being you anointed. Although your corporeal form was destroyed your mighty spirit lived on, and you were reborn many centuries later as the being you now are. You are the lord of dragons, beast of the depths, the magnificent wyrm which Cathay reveres, the almighty Kaito.
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#4
RE: The Ancients

It seemed so right.

“But it’s not”, Cerberus spoke aloud.

A quizzical look passed across the dragon’s face.

“This, this is not real.”

The assertion spread like a wildfire, the conflagration of truth banishing the lies. The illusion wavered, flickering before dissolving.

Cerberus awoke with a gasp. He lay upon a cold tiled floor. His damp clothes clung to his body, his hair matted and dripping wet. A figure stood over him, garbed in green and blue armor.

Are those scales?

The being’s gauntlet was encrusted with writhing, flowering script, the symbols seemingly flowing into one another. Push, pull, push, pull, the rhythmic motions of the runes threatening to lull Cerberus into its endless cycle. The creature wore a matching helmet which covered the entirety of its head, three spikes lanced upwards from its forehead.

Crisp laughter emanated from the helmet.

“We expected nothing less Master Cerberus.”
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#5
RE: The Ancients

Chanting filled the chamber. The language was strangely empathic, Cerberus could feel the sorrow, the joy, the pain, the grief, which the alien language spoke of. Visions of mighty wars, tumultuous storms raced through his mind.

He had been led, drenched, into an attached chamber. His questions fell upon deaf ears, his host had merely instructed him to follow.

They passed through an arch, and Cerberus found himself in the midst of a great congregation. The chamber was lit solely by flickering candlelight. He stepped forward, his host having joining the ranks of the chanters. Half a dozen beings rushed forward, their movements flowing into one another, eerily soothing. They peeled off his wet garments, others drew long thin barbs tracing the same flowering script over his bare skin. Rather than pain, where the barbs past they chilled hiss flesh and soothed his weariness.

As one they returned to their stations in the assembled choir. Cerberus’ entire body was etched with the glowing, writhing script. The symbols danced before his eyes, swirling, like currents in the ocean, granting him a profound sense of peace.

The chanting reached a crescendo, the script glowed a luminescent blue. At once the chamber fell into silence, Cerberus found himself flat on the ground the assembled mass motionless. A faint whisper reached his ear,

”Rise. From the depths you shall rise, an emissary of the seas, a power to be reckoned with. You shall lead us unto glory. We grant you rebirth, and so to shall you renew our once great race. Arise, no longer shall you be called Cerberus the guardian of hell, you shall be called Kaito. You are the guardian of the depths, the ancient wisdom of the oceans given form, and you shall lead us unto glory."
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#6
An ornate helm girdled his skull. Thin bands of metal wove together to encase his head, openings left for his eyes, ears, mouth and chin. The thin bands of metal divided and branched of at the top of his skull, crowing his head in a diadem of highly polished, silver metal spikes. A loosely clasped a bronze trident heavily inscribed with runes of a curving, sinuous script, enrapturing the gaze, and intoxicating the psyche with their intricate weave, alluring yet terrifying. Silver armor burnished with tinges of blue and green, mimicking the depths of the sea. His exposed flesh was bound in the elegant script, alternating between bright green and deep blue in the play of the light.

Flying buttresses reached questing fingers to the far expanses of the domed chamber ending before they merged at the highest point. They too were carved with glyphs, but in harsher cast, primitive in comparison, and far larger in scale. The air hummed with tumultuous magical energies, channeled and held at bay by the mighty runes, their power former a staunch barrier against the environment beyond.

The dark blue depths of a vast ocean engulfed the city, millions of pounds of seawater threatening to crush the ancient architecture below their gargantuan mass. He gazed into the impenetrable ocean beyond the magical wards affixed in place by the alien architecture, his piercing stare probing through the darkness as he discerned the secrets that lay beyond.

A warrior, garbed in a similar albeit less elaborate fashion, walked calmly over to the foreigner, alighting his gaze upon the depths. He perceived much, years of tutelage and instinct allowing him to glean tidal currents, discern aquatic species and determine irregularities, with ease. Yet he failed to notice what the stranger observe, his gaze fixed and unable or unwilling to transcend the mundane. The warrior to brandished a weapon, but with far more determination, a spear clenched in an iron fist.

The stranger held his peace, unperturbed by the invasion of his meditations by the armed warrior, continuing to gaze serenely into the depths.

“Lord Kaito, you are pensive. What troubles you?”

“The dragons of the depths stir this day.”

“You are far more versed in such lore than I, my lord.”

Kaito nodded sagely.

“Those who bask in ignorance would rather gouge their own eyes out rather than perceive the scene arrayed about them.”

The warrior bowed his head respectfully, contemplating the stranger’s words.

“The elders have need of me.”

“You are perceptive as always, my lord.”

“Very well, lead me to them.”

With that, the warrior and foreigner walked away from the majestic vista, towards the conclave of the elders.
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#7
The chamber was bedecked with gold trimmings and the wealth of the oceans. Organic architecture, with aesthetically pleasing symmetry and graceful lines, entrancing the onlooker. Seated in all of their glory, was the Council of Elders. Garbed as warriors with armor cast with glyphs heralding their personal triumphs. Scenes from epic wars played out in the flickering light upon their glorious forms, warriors marched to and from, massive magical energies unleashed in apocalyptic battles where mortals grappled with daemons as the world was torn asunder.

Their mere collective presence permeated age and wisdom born of countless generations honed in battle, tempered in blood. Their will was implacable, their patience interminable, their ferocious spirits held behind their façade of serenity.

Their gaze punctured the new arrivals, probing the very depths of their souls just as they scanned the infinite depths of the seas. The fist who entered, a warrior, walked with head bowed in reverence, cowed by the piercing stares of the elders. The second strode with purpose, sense of self, dignified even under the glare of the ancient ones, returning a glare of his own in turn, which they met unflinching.

“Kaito, dragon of the depths, the Council seeks to appoint a task to you, will you heed our request?”

Kaito took the time to glance at each of the two dozen council members in turn. The silence grew deafening, drawing on to sheer physical oppression, a shroud which threatened to asphyxiate those of weaker wills. The warrior shifted uncomfortably, resting his spear on the ground, as he stared at his feet seeking to quell the rising terror which compelled him to flee the presence of the powerful beings which confronted each other, a mere speck amidst demigods.

“I will hear the words of the Council.”

The female council member seemed unfazed by the air of insubordination which radiated forth from the figure who stood in the Council’s midst.

“The Great Necromancer stirs, plots thicken and twist about with a will of their own.”, rasped a council member from behind Kaito.

“And now the Council deigns to rise, to send me forth as an emissary to the world beyond, an agent of the Council’s will.”

His voice was steady, unwavering, resolute, matter of fact, and with the slightest touch of conscious contempt.

The female council member ignored the subtle attack against the honor of the Council.

“The dark gods themselves have taken supreme fascination in the present events, and Helem Brai weakens.”, she accentuated the last statement, the emphasis enforcing the full weight of her words.

“Rather than confront this direct threat, the Council is content to gamble the souls of millions as they partake in the twisted game of the gods.”

The veneer of calm and serenity wavered, her voice manifested rage.

“The Council has tolerated your insolence for far too long! We have stood before the ravages of the dark gods, sheltering the world from the predations of chaos. You ignorant wretch, scum of the earth, foolish-”

“Enough!”, a male, senior council member roared.

He turned in his throne to address Kaito.

“You are correct, we have been idle for too long.”

“Spare me your patronization.”

The female elder hissed in outrage. The senior member rose his hand, an unspoken command to compsoe herself.

“Travel to Helem Brai, seek out the keeper of the gate.”

“The Council has a new purpose for me?”

The elder smiled.

“You are the dragon of the depths, even we cannot fathom the entirety of your potential.”

He paused, drawing in a long breath.

“The gate will open, shattered by the advance of an army of the dark gods whose numbers will be beyond counting.”

He brought down his fist, smashing it into the elaborate armrest, issuing a piercing ringing.

“WE HAVE CALLED THIS WORLD OUR OWN BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THE ACCURSED OLD ONES, AND WE SHALL REMAIN LONG AFTER THEIR MISBEGOTTEN PROGENY ARE CONSUMED BY THE DEMONS OF THEIR VERY MINDS!”
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#8
To the uninitiated it would have seemed as if two mutant hybrids of crustacean and man. The likes of which only the demented realm of the Dark Gods could conjure, had been vomited forth to ply the land of mortals. The two hulking brutes were at complete odds with the flowing, organic, clean lined architecture which spiraled around them. Columns glistened in ethereal light. Flying buttresses carved from coral, wrought with masterful skill, reached like blindly groping fingers over the narrow corridor which barely allowed the two abominations to walk abreast of each other. Softly glowing runes were carved into the coral buttresses. They were imbued with eldritch power, and for countless centuries had fulfilled their duty unflinchingly.

The two creatures held two pike like staves in a clawed fist. The pikes were crafted of spines of some ferocious sea beast and glowed with and inner luminescence which had stubbornly clung to existence long after its owner had died. Occluded by the two hulking brutes was a more diminutive figure, yet no less imposing. He was garbed in crystalline armor and bore a headdress bedecked in spikes, fashioned in the likeness of some mythical sea god. In his hand he loosely held a gleaming trident.

For many hours the small party had traversed the labyrinthine pathways and corridors which girdled the continent of Lustria’s northwestern coast., beneath the surface of the ocean. Finally they came upon a seemingly innocuous, rough hewn hole in the wall. Beyond the poorly wrought entrance lay a chamber of claustrophobic proportions with room enough for the two crustacean like creatures to maneuver. A second portal proceeded the first, and once they had taken flanking positions, the crustaceans motioned their charge towards the portal. What followed was a cramped corridor. The corridor opened up into a large chamber in compete contrast to the previous poorly wrought entrance chamber and constricted corridor.

The chamber walls were fashioned from the brilliant, rainbow colored scales of mighty sea creatures. The floor was constructed of clean cut tiles of pure pearl. Directly across chamber lay a beautifully and intricately carved arch which led directly into the scale wall of the chamber. The arch was embellished with scenes of ancient wars betwixt foul daemons and aquatic beasts. Arranged around the arch was a most peculiar sight.

Haphazard wooden shelves and tables, laden with a menagerie of ingredients from squirming worms to floating eyeballs. A prone figure seemed to be struggling with something under one of the rickety tables. As if drawn from some folktale, she was the stereotypical hedge witch, short of stature, a patched up pointed hat could be seen over her shoulder, and garbed in a tattered old dress. She seemed to be grumbling to herself, every now and then punctuated by a curse as whatever she fumbled with eluded her focused efforts. Cautiously Cerberus approached the woman.

“Excuse me I am…”

“May Nurgle’s rot take your manhood!”, she cursed over her shoulder, not even deigning to affix the impudent whelp who dared disturb her concentration with a glare.

“What have those fish folk sent me now hmmn? Another one of their burly, crabbies hmmn?”, she questioned, her gaze still directed under the table.

“No offense intended my lovelies”, she crooned to a second set of crustacean guards who flanked the entrance to the chamber. They dipped their heads in acknowledgement and chuckled softly to themselves.

“I believe he is the one the Council calls Kaito, mistress.”

“Ah is that so…?”, her tone bemused.

“AHA!”, she shrieked in triumph. Spinning around with a speed which bellied her apparent age, she rounded upon Cerberus, clutching a clam in her hand. She proffered the cracked clam to him, batting her eyelashes like some maiden in far off Altdorf.

“Would my gestie be liking some eatsies hmmn? They are so devilishly tricky, they slip and slide the little buggers but they can’t get away from me, no no, they can’t get away from me….”, she glared intently at the clam, as if daring it to so much as flinch. Her head suddenly snapped back to fix Cerberus an accusatory glare.

“What are you waiting for? Much is needed to be done, and no time to lose. Off you go through the dragon’s eye, and where you’ll end up no one knows”, she cackled. When Cerberus made no move to obey, going so far as to grant the hag a curious look, as if questioning her sanity, the woman grabbed his arm and yanked him towards the arch with a surprising display of strength.

“Gather your wits about you human, there is no time to waste!”, she pushed him roughly towards the arch before scrambling back to her table and rummaging through her ingredients. She grabbed a fistful of eyes, a pinch of what seemed to be grave dust, and piled a small mound of gold dust on the clam before scurrying back to the arch.

Cerberus shook himself from his reverie and addressed the madwoman.

“The dragon’s eye?”, when he noticed that the hag wasn’t paying him the slightest attention, and had even begun humming softly to herself, he roared in outrage.

“Damnation woman! Answer me!”

She gifted him a reproachful look, wagging her finger at him and tsking under her breath.

“Now, now no need to shout and get yourself all riled up. The dragon’s eye…”, she gestured at the arch, “is a relic of ages past. It is a doorway into the netherworlds, into dimensions sealed by ageless, primordial forces, older than the dark gods themselves.

“The Old Ones…”, Cerberus whispered. The crone shook her head vigorously in agreement, her hat bobbing comically.

“How does one travel through the dragon’s eye?” The hag burst out into laughter, dabbing at the tears of mirth which sprang from her eyes with a handkerchief she had pulled froth from the folds of her crimson gown.

“You do not travel through the dragon’s eye, it travels through you!”

“What nonsense is this how can a gate….”, he paused as he felt the attention of an entity older than the gods themselves. All the while the hag had been going about some obscure ritual, bedecking the arch with the preserved eyes, sprinkling gold dust around the arch, and smearing the fleshy bits of the clam on the arch. As if in response to her unspoken invocations, an ancient presence had been awakened. The hag pet the arch affectionately, crooning softly.

“What manner of devilry is this woman?!”, an image of a gargantuan dragon’s eye burned itself into his mind, and only then did he realize the full import of that which he stood before. The gate was a relic from the times in which the celestial beings known as the Old Ones had walked the Earth. The mighty Old Ones, masters of time and space had constructed massive edifices to transport them across the cosmos, gateways through which they could make quantum leaps through time and space with frivolous ease. The two most renown of such portals had been the gates in the North and South pole, but the existence of other gates was known. Less powerful portals were used by the Lizardmen and their Slaan who could transport entire armies across continents with ease. Yet who was to say that the number of gates ended their? The Old Ones had resided on the Earth for quite some time, how many gates had they and their servants constructed during their stay? And one such gate stood before him.

Its history burned into his mind. With the coming of chaos both of the polar gates had shattered, and many of the minor gates had been over run. The dragons, keen in their wisdom, had recognized the potential danger of this gate, and had attempted to bind it with their own magic, to prevent the forces of the Dark Gods from ever springing forth from the edifice. The rampant winds of magic were too chaotic for such a ritual, and although the dragons had succeeded in binding the gate, they had done so at the cost one amongst their number, the venerable dragon which had led the ritual. His soul had been stripped from his mighty form and imprisoned within the gate.

The gate was then lost to the seas following tectonic shifts as the Slaan unleashed their mighty powers against the thrice cursed spawn of chaos. Lost to the ocean depths, the gateway had remained undisturbed until a sentient, aquatic race had discovered the device. Attuned to the forces of magic, the race’s wizards and shamans had sensed the structure’s incredible power and sensed the ancient entity trapped within. Years of isolation had taken their toll and the ancient dragon had lashed out at any who sought to commune with it. The aquatic race built their home around the structure, taking up residence in a Lizardmen Temple City which had sunk to the ocean depths. The fishmen had used their primitive magic to cast certain wards and bindings upon the gateway to channel its power in a similar way as the abominable Black Pyramid of Nagash, as a locus of magical power, a means to focus the winds of magic and subvert a meager fraction of them to their will.

The Fishmen Council had eventually appointed a maniacal woman as guardian of the gateway. Her origins were unknown even to the venerable dragon. For whatever reason, the hag was able to becalm the dragon, and gleaned much information from it.

The smell of burning sulfur brought Cerberus’ focus back to the chamber around him. The stench grew stronger. The hag woman had leapt up and was tracing sigils through the air with her wrinkled fingers, all the while darting to and fro grabbing ingredients and piling them together. She favored Cerberus a wide eyed look before screeching,

“Go Go! You must go while you have the chance!”

He was about to inquire where he was suppose to be going when he noticed two things simultaneously. The first, was the materializing form of an accursed Tzeentchian Horror. The second, was that the scale wall behind the arch seemed to writhing, as if loosing form. Without a backwards glance he sprinted through the arch and straight into the wall.
--------

Madame Quo-quo was very irritated. The gibbering many armed gigglies were throwing a party without her express permission. Popping up like one of those infernal moulds which just didn’t know how to play nice, the gigglies were materializing all over the place.

“Time out for you mister!”, she shouted, gazing reproachfully at the closest giggly. The gibbering, rapidly mutating creation laughed insanely and lurched at the crone. Madame Quo-quo slapped the meany across the current position of its face. The giggly whimpered as it flew across the chamber, unraveling, and vanishing from existence.

The fishmen had engaged the other gigglies with mighty sweeps of their pointy sticks. The gigglies faltered under the ferocious assault of the fishmen, and were slowly beaten back to the realm of the Dark Gods. Satisfied that for the time being the fishmen were dealing with the carousing, disorderly gigglies, the crone grabbed her large satchel bag and dumped the heaps of piled ingredients into it.

Screams permeated the chamber as the two crustaceans which had escorted Cerberus to the crone’s lair, backed into the chamber. One was alight with dancing, blue-purple flames, not so much making an orderly retreat as racing, madly into the chamber. His companion backed slowly into the chamber, his pike swirling in a defensive pattern before him as he attempted to batter back the fusillade of magical fire being directed at him. A trio of flamers appeared, dousing the unfortunate guard in a withering hail of mutagenic flames.

Madame Quo-quo snuffled indignantly. The pyromaniac hooligans were causing quite a calamity. They needed to be taught some manners. She hefted her bag, clasping it shut, and grabbed her umbrella in her right hand. Crudely fashioned, it nonetheless served it purpose well. Madame Quo-quo dabbed her fingers into a brightly colored paste which lay on the table, and daubed her face in a disturbingly similar way as the more primitive tribes of man. She let loose a keen war cry before charging the flamer trio.

The flamers gave a collective high pitched laugh before redirecting their fire on the foolish, charging hag. Madame Quo-quo opened her umbrella and pushed against the wave of fire. The umbrella was unharmed, glowing faintly as it buffeted the arcane flames. With a shout, she rounded upon the incessant hooligans, caning them repeatedly with the handle of her umbrella. The enchanted handle loosened the daemons hold upon reality with every blow, and in no time the flamers were vanquished back to the infernal realm of their master.

The air hummed, whirling, as the barrier betwixt the mortal plane and the realm of the Dark Gods was further blurred, the forms of hundreds of daemons began to materialize.

“Mistress, you must leave!”, the crustacean shouted to be heard over the persistent humming, whilst struggling against half a dozen newly formed horrors.

The crone moved as if to reply before being tackled. A newly formed flamer spat coruscating flames into the space she had occupied only a moment ago. Madame Quo-quo’s savior was none other than an old levitating broom. It waggled in the air slightly, as if reprimanding the crone as to her lapse in common sense.

“I don’t need any saving, I would have been fine without you. Thank you very much!”, she jabbed her finger to accentuate every syllable.

The broom tipped slightly, as if shrugging, before floating away from the ungrateful hag.

“Don’t get your twigs in a bunch!”, she said while grabbing the rear of the broom and yanking I back. She leapt atop of the broom, kicked the handle with her heel, and gave a loud cluck. The broom shot forward with the force of a comet.

“Clean up for mommy dears.”, she called over her shoulder before, her and her broom exploded in a puff of bright pink smoke.
 

Dark Lord Nihilus

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#9
Twiggy lurched to the side like a drunkard, his wooden handle adopting a shade of green. The journey had been expectedly nauseating, as if passing through an endless maze kaleidoscope while the most repugnant perfume hung heavy in the air. Of course the mistress was unaffected. She always seemed to enjoy such trips, as a glow emanated from her pale cheeks. Twiggy shook himself vigorously before speeding to catch up to his mistress. She always did seem to forget about him, until of course she required his assistance in escaping another interesting situation.

Madame Quo-quo paused, covered her left eye, and hopped on her right foot twice. As if on cue, a thin beam of moonlight slipped through the occluding clouds, shining directly to her left. Nodding, evidently satisfied, she plopped her bag on the ground and began rummaging through it. With a satisfied grunt, she pulled out the oddest looking contraption. It looked like an emaciated rose, its stem diverging into five strands. Rather than a bud capping each divergent stem, there were clock faces. Some were lay horizontal, others vertical. Some were upside down, and others had faces within faces. Some had numbers, others letters and even what appeared to be the phases of the moon. There were as many as thirty hands and as few as one, some moving so fast they were scant more than a blur and other seemed to be completely still.

Twiggy halted a few feet from the mistress and made the mistake of focusing on the contraption. Ha adopted a completely green hue and a thin stream of a syrup like substance began to pour out of him.

Madame Quo-quo paid no heed to the vomiting broomstick and instead glared intently at the clock device. After several minutes of intense concentration she let loose a defeated growl and hurled the contraption back in her bag. Rounding on the sky, she shook her fist threateningly.

“You no good, ill mannered, mischievous cockatoo, how many times must I tell you to stop playing with day light savings!”, she snarled before shaking her head, retrieving her bag and hurrying back into the wood, Twiggy close on her heels.

Castle Drakenhof loomed in the horizon.
-------------------

Shadows writhed, coalescing and then shattering once more. The acrid cold tugged at his soul, beckoning him unto the enrapturing embrace of oblivion. The ageless eons weighed heavily upon him. For how many millennia had he answered the call to war? Unto how many battles had he hearkened to?

No. His time had not yet come. As alluring as the void was, he had tasks left uncompleted.

The warbling images coalesced. The fine divides dividing the mortal plane from the myriad others, were weakened. A being emerged once more into the realms of the living. His head was crowned in a helm, wreathed in a spiked crown. He was garbed in crystalline armor, embellished in intricate, flowing script. A three pronged trident hung limp in his hand.

He hissed a sibilant intonation. The air grew heavy, water condensing at his command. A pall of fog enveloped him and expanded. The first skeletal warriors were caught unaware, enraptured by the growing fog. The droplets of water condensed upon the bleached bones of long dead warriors, solidifying into unyielding ice. Joints froze in mid motion, skulls burst under the pressure of expanding ice. The most minute fractures and crevasses expanded under the force of freezing water. Once a menagerie of moving automaton, was a frozen parody of their previous existence.

Cerberus stalked unseen in the accursed fog, driven by unholy purpose, the puppet or a more ancient and terrible force.
 
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