In the Shadow of the Tyrant

Far Above Altun-Ha

The black surface of the pool shimmered, swirled darkly, and an image slowly rose to the surface. Coming into focus were the features of the self-proclaimed Unicorn Brigade, Kham Tsenkyo and Nyrik Albanir at their head, speaking with a pair of steadfast men donning emotionless steel masks. Looking on grimly from his throne above the pool, Zacharias Karnstead waved a hand, freezing the rendition on a view of Nyrik’s handsome features. With a weary sigh, he rose to his feet, stepping down and walking forward, as his attendant immediately fell into step beside him.

“Banding the powers of this world against me,” the Tyrant said wearily, accepting a proffered goblet filled to the brim with wine, “Why do they do it, Nicholas? Can they not see how pointless it all is?”

“I cannot speak for the others, milord,” his attendant replied, clutching a sheaf of papers with one hand and idly stroking his small beard with the other, “That one named Nyrik, however, is a Paladin, and they are well-known to be very stubborn when it comes to facing down evil-”

The goblet in Zacharias’ hand shattered, wine spraying across the wall not unlike a bloodspray. With an involuntary shriek, Nicholas started back, his eyes wide with terror. “I mean to say, milord, that is, that crusaders such has him always face down the odds, no matter how idiotic it may be. To challenge someone of your power, that is.”

He stood motionless for a moment more, head bowed, then the Tyrant’s shoulders shook with a rough chuckle, and Nicholas relaxed. “You are right, of course. Young Nyrik is not the first zealous revolutionary I have met. Let us pray that he offers me more entertainment than the others.”

With that, he strode to the massive window dominating the end of the throne room, attendant following now cautiously behind. Zacharias clasped his broad hands solidly behind his back, looking down at the world spread below him, cities and rivers glittering like jewels. “However, Nicholas, I spoke not of the reason why the defy me. Mortals are always too blind to see that they can only attain their full potential under the rule of one such as I. Rather, I am bothered that they seek to challenge me in such a roundabout fashion.”

Nicholas gave the Tyrant’s back as skeptical an expression as he dared. “Are you suggesting that you’d rather they simply siege the castle as they are? That would be suicide.”

Zacharias nodded, a faint smile briefly upon his features. “Again, you are correct. Simply waiting up here is the part I cannot stand.”

“I believe your patience is well placed, milord. Look at how much they have grown in power since they first met in the laboratory, not even a year ago. Destroying them and retaking this land will be all the better for the wait.”

The Tyrant barked a short laugh. “As usual, Nicholas, you delight in telling me and retelling me my own plans. Now tell me something new. What is your opinion on their current activities in Shizamu?”

Nicholas relaxed a bit more, stroking his beard as his voice fell into an easy drone. “They’ve shown remarkable alacrity in winning over most of the various factions. I’m afraid that Kham presents a rather convincing argument, and has swayed both the Doji and the Monkhbat to his cause. The Tsenkyo clan goes without saying, of course,” he shuffled the papers in his hands, cleared his throat, and continued, “A similar approach did not, however, work on the Hashikawa clan, and there was something of a a snafu there. Hachirou is as reliably insane as always and, though I will not bore milord with the details, the Brigade made quite a mess of it. We can reliably count the Hashikawa on their list of enemies.”

Zacharias nodded solemnly, the goblet and wine reforming smoothly in his hand with a noise like a shower of diamond. Nicholas’ face once again held an expression of terror as the Tyrant took a slow sip. “And what is to be their next move?”

“Er, well, when I said before that the other factions had been swayed, that was not entirely correct. It would be more accurate to say that they have agreed to ally temporarily upon the condition that the Hashikawa family is removed from power. Unsurprisingly, it seems that Hachirou has made few friends. Last we saw they were returning to the capitol, presumably to topple the government there somehow.”

“Interesting. So they mean to lead both the warriors of the Monkhbat and the monsters of the Doji against me. Endovelicus will be thrilled, I’m sure, as will Princess Sariel.”

“Would you like me to send couriers to them, milord?”

Zacharias waved a hand dismissively. “Knowing the Princess, she’s already well aware of the situation. As for Endovelicus, I’m not convinced that he reads any of the messages we send him, or that he can read at all. No, send instead a messenger to Hüseyin. Inform him that he has the Tyrant’s sanction to act as he sees fit. We would not want to make this too easy for the brigade.”

“Yes, milord,” Nicholas replied, quickly retreating from the other’s presence.

Now alone in the throne room, KARZAK gazed across the world, an evil smile slowly forming on his lips.


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