In the Shadow of the Tyrant

The Scholar Falls

Sakya Nyingma, Provisional Capital of Shizamu

With a spray of blood and a sickeningly wet thud, the limp body of Kham Tsenkyo landed heavily on the cobbles and did not move. Towering above him, the bloated, multi-limbed abomination that had dealt the blow leered maliciously through a mask of chains. Time seemed to slow as Nyrik, plunging his sword into another of the monsters, turned in horrified realization, his face a mask of anguish and fury. Fending off the other attackers with some of their many limbs, the two remaining Kytons lumbered forward. One of them reached with a clawed hand, touched Kham’s lifeless body and, with a rush of air and a final, horrible chortle, both of them were gone, the corpse with them.

Suddenly alone in the dusty streets of Sakya Nyingma, the remaining members of the Unicorn Brigade slowly lowered their weapons, too shocked to say a word. Silently, the corpses of the two fallen monsters began to dissolve, adding their ichor to the smear of blood now painted across the ground.

The Tyrant’s Castle, Somewhere Above Altun-Ha

The Tyrant’s viewing pool clouded over, Zacharias himself rising slowly from his seat above it. Far from pleased with the gruesome scene he had just witnessed, KARZAK’s brow was instead furrowed in consternation. Following his usual course, he strode down the steps from the viewing platform and began across the hall, his attendant promptly falling in behind him.

“They’ve taken him to the Plane of Shadow, then,” Zacharias said. It was a statement, rather than a question.

“Yes, my lord,” Nicholas answered, the barest hint of horrified anticipation showing in his voice.

“A pity. The boy showed such promise, and now the rest of them are surely going to go after him,” the Tyrant shook his head sadly, “Perhaps I should intervene.”

“My lord, that would not be advisable!” Nicholas stammered, suddenly off-balance, “You know well that the Plane of Shadow is her domain-”

With a hard snap and a rustle of cloaks, KARZAK turned, his hand around Nicholas’ throat and lifting him into the air before the attendant could ract.

“You dare dictate to me where I can and cannot go?!” he roared, voice steady despite its ferocity, “You dare believe that I am incapable of dealing with those beings on the Plane of Shadow should I so choose?”

“No, my lord! No my lord!” Nicholas gasped, the color quickly draining from his face, “I only meant- meant to suggest that- that it would be wise to maintain good relations with our allies!”

The attendant’s wiry body collapsed to the ground with a thud that echoed throughout the chamber.

“You are right, of course,” KARZAK said, his voice level as he clasped his hands behind his back, “Although there are no beings so powerful as to pose such a threat to my standing, it would not be wise to anger such a powerful force at this point in our plans.”

Behind him, Nicholas staggered to his feet, coughing and rubbing the red skin around his neck.

“Continue to watch them,” the Tyrant ordered, a slow smile creasing his mouth, “If they manage to survive this expedition, then perhaps they truly are the heroes I’ve been waiting for.”

Citadel of Bones, Blightmoor

Cast in the light of a flickering campfire, three twisted figures hunched maliciously over a bubbling cauldron.

“What’s he doing now?” the largest one screeched, her bent form significantly bulkier than the others.

“Tell Allison what he’s doing, Silvietta,” the second one ordered in turn, her impressive jowls wobbling with every word.

“He’s just cast Slow on them, Dorean,” the third one said, her figure much more slender and human than the others, though still with a disturbing cast to it.

“Don’t tell me, fool girl! Tell Allison!”

Silvietta sighed. “H’s just cast Slow on them, Allison,” she repeated.

Allison fixed the second speaker with a single beady eye. “Why’d he go and do that then? Any practitioner worth his salt would know that a Kyton will just shrug that off?”

Peering into the cauldron, the other answered. “Well, it seems to have worked, Allison.”

“What, really?” Allison turned her gaze back into the bubbling waters, then beamed with pride, “That’s my love, always powerful with is magic.”

There was a brief moment of silence as the three stared at the image being projected onto the green liquid.

“What’s just happened, then?” Allison crooned.

“Tell her what’s just happened, Silvietta.”

“He’s just been killed, Dorean.”

The hag called Dorean opened her mouth to chide the younger, but was interrupted by an ear-splitting screech from her left. Allison’s eyes, previously dull,l petulant pinpricks, suddenly flared to blinding embers, whilst a pair of huge, mottled and leathery wings burst forth from her back, further shredding her threadbare robes. Trembling with rage, she bent forward further and gripped the edges of the cauldron, her claws leaving long gouges in the metal.

“They did what?!” Allison cried, the other two witches cringing back from her sudden fury, “No-one! No-one hurts my Kham! I’ll show them! I’ll kill them all!”

This last was accompanied by a frenzied cackle as the monstrous hag’s wings beat once, twice, and lifted her into the air. With surprising agility, Allison cleared the trees, her cackling echoing throughout the forest, before instantly vanishing in a burst of foul smoke.

Silently, the two remaining crones stood in the now-empty clearing.

“Pass me the tea, Silvietta,” Dorean said eventually, her tone carefully neutral.

“Yes, Dorean,” the younger said, politely passing the corpulent hag a varnished saucer bearing a cup filled with thick brown liquid.

“Tune up the cauldron to Allison, then,” she said, taking a slow sip, “This should be fun to watch.”

Entropy’s Fall, Plane of Shadow

With another rush of air, the two bloated figures appeared suddenly in an empty mockery of a city square. Clutched in the larger’s misshapen claws hung the limp body of Kham, handled with surprising delicacy.

“Failed. Perhaps we have, but at least we managed to obtain some most…” the Kyton holding Kham lifted him up to leer at him through the mess of chains that covered its face, “…interesting parts for our experiments.”

The other let out what might have been a chuckle, cut short by the sound of footsteps approaching softly on the black cobbles.

“A failure indeed,” the youth said, emerging from the shadows. Chains covered him in several places, serving as his only clothing, but beyond peculiarity and his painfully thin frame, he appeared to be entirely human. “Failure must needs punishing, wouldn’t you say?” he mused, as though pondering a tricky riddle.

This seemed to amuse the two monsters, who exchanged twisted grins with each other.

“As for those parts, as you called him, I do believe Our Lady in Chains will be most interested in meeting him.”

The creatures’ grins froze, slowly changing to expressions of horrified realization.

“There may be a chance for you to redeem yourselves in the eyes of our Lady,” the youth continued, slowly walking to the Kytons and stopping just before them.

Without warning, a massive arm, wrapped in chains and fully the size of the city street it occupied, reached swiftly from the shadows and swept up the staring pair into its iron grip. There came a sickening crunch, the sound of metal grinding on metal, and the two Kytons met a sudden and painless end. The youth merely smiled and hefted Kham’s body over his shoulder.

“Then again, maybe there won’t be,” he said simply, and walked out from the square.

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