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The Lengths of Vengeance

The guns of the HIMAS Sovereign unleashed a colossal roar at the behest of the Dark Lord’s magic. The airship was the pinnacle of the Empire’s engineering and magical might. The perfect union of humanity’s creativity and cooperation, and of their debauchery and malice. In truth, the Dark Lord did not need to do much to make the vessel run. Levitation, a sorcerer’s portal to view the different critical systems, a cruel will to turn this marvel of modernity against its masters was all that it took.

With methodical precision he manned the whole ship, his portal showing him the inside of a gun turret. A hiss of steam and groan of metal came out of it as the guns cycled by his will, ready to accept more shells and powder. He hefted the terrible projectiles into their breaches and closed the door behind them. He wanted to be seen.

Trees burned, great craters exploded into existence. Streams and creeks were turned into mires of ash and mud. All of it just to make enough noise to summon forth the Empire’s greatest magicians. No, its greatest traitors, its most horrid benefactors. More gunsmoke, more infernal torrents of shrapnel and death. The Crown Prince would come.

Ears ringing the warm feeling of the small round bauble on his neck tossed into his mind memories he had wanted left happy. They were not to be stained with this devastation, they were sacred.

No!

The Dark Lord squashed the memory. The long droning hum of the propellers that drove the floating ship reached him. He had waited too long between firing the main battery. A flick of his wrist He loaded the guns again. This time he turned their barrels towards the walls of the capital city. It had been in range the entire time, but killing the people of the Empire was not his interest. Drawing out their precious Prince was his only desire. It seemed that few of his subjects would have to die before he acted. The Dark Lord had long ago decided such losses were acceptable. The guns thundered.

Like white hot stars, the shells streaked toward the dawn’s purple and blue sky. It seemed that they would hit. Disappointed, the Dark Lord scowled. Just before the shells could reach the walls, they exploded mid-air.

A cold, toothless smile spread across his lips. The Prince was the only other magician with enough power to create a barrier robust enough to stop the weapons, other than the Dark Lord himself of course. With delight he reloaded the guns. His heart raced with the most wonderfully awful desires. This was his moment. The boarding party would be coming.

The next roar of the guns flashed her image into his eyes.

Panting, the Dark Lord felt fury overtaking the pleasure at his plan.. He remembered how his blood had run cold. The small note that had been left on the shoddy casket that she had been jammed into.

The treaty was ratified by my Electors.
Here is to peace between our nations for all times!

P.S. Sorry I broke your toy.


That had been ten years ago. Ten years ago when his faith in humanity had come crashing down in such a silent and terrible way. It had been as if he was trapped in a blizzard , endless torrents of snow falling down forever into a black pit of nothingness. He had not even loved her. She was the mother of another’s children, a friend to many and a bright spot in the dark world in which they lived.

When the Dark Lord’s eyes focused again, he spied the Pegasus mounts of the Royal Guard flying towards the Sovereign. The fury subsided, as he registered the locket was now in his palm. He had been broken since that day. It was why his son ran his little kingdom far from the Empire and not him. He was compromised, he could no longer justly rule, he was lost to the darkness. But, that inky prison had become his power and his pleasure. The clop of hooves on the deck behind him drew him back into the moment. He turned to face them.

Armored knights, many of them great magicians, flanked the Prince upon their winged horses. The Prince bellowed something about how this evil ended here, how the old ways were dead, and there was no place for the Dark Lord in the world any longer. His monologue was a foolish blunder. Perhaps his retinue could have been spared if the Dark Lord had not been given the time to regain his focus. The magic was cast without any of them even noticing, while the Prince was still mid-sentence.

With a series of groans and whinnies the men and horses died. Blood spewed from their eyes and ears and their bodies shriveled away into boney, gray husks. All save the Crown Prince. He yelled in surprise as his mount collapsed underneath him. He stood quickly, sword drawn from its scabbard in the same motion, magic boiling in his free hand. There was gleam of hatred and disgust in his eyes, a glimpse of what truly resided in the heart of the “hero.” The Prince howled some sort of declaration of vengeance for his friends in the form a duel.

Brilliant magic splashed out from his palm as he dashed towards his opponent. The blows landed true upon the Dark Lord. That was all a part of the show. To let the Prince think he had some type of power over the situation. When the sword plunged into his chest the Prince withdrew, panting. He stared on his triumphant face withering to a look of pure horror.

The Dark Lord smiled. He displayed his true visage for the Prince to see. The man screamed. Clawing at his eyes as if to try and force them closed. But the ancient arts, the black will of the monsters now within the Dark Lord did not let the Price look away. The mortal steel of the Prince’s blade fell from his chest, dripping with black ooze. It was a testament to his power. The Prince was nothing compared to him.

Their eyes met. He saw his reflection in the ice blue eyes of the Prince. What he beheld was a human no longer. A mass of writhing shadow, wings of ink and purple flame, eyes that were empty glowing hollows of red. The sight filled him with perverse pleasure, spreading his face into a wide grin of razors and talons. The Prince shuffled back away from him shrieking unevenly in unintelligible bursts of words. In a mass of extending shadow Dark Lord grabbed him and pinned His Imperial Majesty to the deck. His body slithering over the man’s, grabbing each wrist and ankle.

The Shadow pulled free the locket from his neck and popped open its latch. He held up the picture within, forcing the Prince to look at it. The man’s terror momentarily was replaced by confusion. Then his icy eyes recognized the image. In a fit of desperation the captured monarch thrashed in the Dark Lord’s grasp. He allowed the man to free a hand. With a single motion of the free arm a dagger was drawn and driven into the mass of darkness, magic lancing out from the weapon in some sort of “holy” act. The Dark lord let his face become for familiar to the Prince, one he had seen ten years ago. The face of a man that had mourned a woman he had never loved. The cold gaze of darkness that had given up everything to get this moment.

“No…” The Prince breathed.

“No. No. No. No….no!”

He grabbed the dagger’s hilt again and took to stabbing into the Dark Lord’s formless body. He kept repeating the denial with ever increasing fervor, the blade and magic splashing into the Shadow with each declaration. But such an effort was futile. The Dark Lord could not feel the blade. Even the magic of the gods that his Imperial Majesty drew his power from meant nothing.

Tiring of the Prince’s rabid onslaught, the Dark Lord ripped the knife from his hand and tossed it across the deck. The Prince froze, only now realizing it was already over. The thunder of Sovereign’s guns boomed again. This time as their shells exploded, brick, mortar, and the screams of people below echoed up to them.

The Dark Lord pulled the Prince to the observation deck’s railing. He forced the man to stand as he had, freezing him in place with sorcery. The Sovereign would rain death and to all the people in the capital of the Empire it looked as if their Crown Prince was the culprit. Especially when it crashed directly into the new house of the Imperial Parliament. The Prince took to screaming. He claimed he regretted what happened, he pleaded for the people of the city, for his life. The Dark Lord cackled with delight. It was exactly how he had always imagined. The urge satisfied the coldness within him exactly what he had hoped it would.

That was when the Crown Prince awoke in his bed. With a mighty shout he sprang out of his bed and from the magical slumber. With a further gasp he realized he was not alone. The Shadow stood before him, playfully smiling with too many twisted teeth. Panting, the Prince could only stare in horror, his eyes growing dark bags in an instant.

The Dark Lord pointed to the Prince’s chest. The locket, its latch broken off, the picture of the woman, for all to see, hung there. Without a word he left the Prince there in his bedroom. The Imperial City was unharmed. The innocent people that had died in the fantasy were quite alive and unaware of what had transpired in the Astral Plane of dreams. The Prince was not worth their deaths. He never had been, he may have thought he was, that was why he was allowed the fantasy of the dream. It would be his last time being “worth something.”

With his shadow removed from the city, the Dark Lord wondered how long it would take the Prince to realize the locket was cursed and could not be removed. It was such trouble when you could not hide your true nature from the world.

The Dark Lord smiled one last time as his power left him. His will was complete. All the magic, all the power, all the sacrifices he had made against his soul had been in the amulet. Even the dream had been a condition of the magic. However, the contract was fulfilled and now it was time for his death.

Such were the lengths of a bloodless vengeance...
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johnnyfoges
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