A Debt Repaid
by: Ken Williams
Grom Darstromath met with Lord Glarigas in the early morning. The young man had wanted to discuss the future of Ebon Atul as a nation. Mrdinar had been dreading such questions. Grom sat down and pulled out papers from a notebook that he presumably brought from wherever House Darstromath was based now, somewhere in the north.
“Alright, Mrdinar,” he started, “I wanted to start with some demands that my people have before we talk about your whole Scareye situation. Okay?”
Lord Glarigas crossed his arms and grunted.
“Okay, now for starters, our resources have been eaten up by the war in Pyros with very little return on our investment. Many rebel groups exist in Arycha Province and are in a good position to take over cities. We need to do something about this, inhibit their support.”
Mrdinar frowned, “Grom, in the past few weeks, I must admit I’ve grown to like you. You have handled all of Ebon Atul’s foreign affairs perfectly. Thanks to your efforts, we have several Kakurl clans and even Gaians as part of my new empire. Nothing you have done, however, will prove to me that it is a good idea to capitulate to the demands of terrorists. Ever since our shared ancestor, Lord Darstromath the Black.”, Grom’s eye twitched at the mention, “made this nation, it has stood undivided under our families. It will continue to do so.”
“Right,” Grom said, “Mrdinar, I love this nation, I love our people. I truly do, but … well we celebrate Lord Darstromath for giving our people independence, but if he didn’t split us, we would be one people. One Atular nation.”
Mrdinar smiled, “I like the way you think, Grom. One Atular nation. We could resurrect the line of kings. Imagine, us ruling all of the Atular!”
“The other Atular won’t like it.”
“That’s why we’ll start by bumping off the leaders. Starting with the White Atular. My assassins can kill the Kassar family with ease. What is it, a man, a woman, a little girl and two little boys?”
“That sounds right, my lord, but I’d advise caution. The Hydrosians are watching and from what I know about their High Landsponge, he won’t take kindly such an act. For our nation to succeed in the coming war, we need to stop these constant assassinations. We need a plan. Start with alliances. I know Iroxi Kakurl, northern Gaians and even some humans out to the east who would gladly take in our cause. All I need is your leave to start diplomacy with them.”
Mrdinar pondered for a while. The grey-skinned barbarians who called themselves Kakurl would be a valuable asset in the war. As much as the lord of the Black Atular wanted to force all the Kakurl societies to join the Empire of the Scared Eye, the various tribes and clans would never work together. The Iroxi hated the Garrotel who hated the Tonar who hated the Glarimel who loved the Iroxi. It was a mess that no one could ever control. Even the great Daemon Scareye would never have that sort of power.
Gaians and greenskins were the same in a different way. They had a hatred dating back to the Schism war. Oldrui Watr brought the greenskins from some dead world. They had destroyed it with some superweapon that they called a “nuke”. Oldrui thought they’d be good allies in the war, expendable and destructive. Unfortunately for him, the area where his portal was set up was in the mountain outside of what was then North Hydros. Now it was the country of Humane. The mountains had been Gaian territory. The Gaians were living hills, great creatures made of stone. They ate the mountain and cultivated the land. When they died, they were buried, and somehow the pressure of the ground returned them to the mountain. The Gaians were extremely territorial. If it weren’t for the fact that long before the Atular had offended their gods with a war against the Kakurl, they never would have allowed the portal’s construction. The Gaians resented the greenskins since their arrival. Matters went worse when greenskins started to enjoy the mountains and hunt the game there instead of going to the land Oldrui promised.
The greenskins settled the mountains, angering the Gaians to the point of cutting ties with the Hydrosians. Since then, the two had been mortal enemies. Unless Emperor Scareye wanted use of the greenskins’ special weapons, there was no use for them. They weren’t much weaker physically, in fact, probably before they cursed themselves, they probably looked a lot like Atular. But they had no magic, only moderately stronger weapons.
Mrdinar decided. “Grom. Go to the Gaians and the Kakurl. Bring whoever you can into the fold.
“It would be an honor, sir”, Grom said with a smile. He then bowed and made his leave.
Mrdinar sat for a while, pondering the war to come. Then he realized that night had fallen. He decided to go out and make sure the Ebon Citadel was locked up. The Citadel housed the entire Glarigas family, except for Keuryl, his second youngest sister, who was studying at Hydros University, and Ommon, the 4th child and youngest brother. Ommon was talking to mercenaries to help fight. After taking in Guilon, Mrdinar expected that the other three Atular nations would join Hydros. As he passed by Gylnul’s room, he could hear her having sex with someone, who knows who? She didn’t really care much who shared her bed. He walked down the staircase where he saw a silhouette. At first he thought that it was Wyk, the youngest sister, but that couldn’t be right. She was fourteen years old, ten years younger than him. This woman was near his age. She started walking up the stairs and Mrdinar stepped back, slightly afraid.
“Come no further! I am Lord Glarigas!”, He pulled out a knife.
“I know,” it said, in a voice too familiar. He lit a torch and saw that it was Nima. The disease had ravaged her, particularly her arms. They were covered in scabs and cuts. Her face was withered and had a bit of fungal growth. She had only been dead for two days. He couldn’t do what he needed to. He loved her too much. He had a knife strapped around his side. He could undo it now. He knew he could, but it was Nima. Even if it was her walking corpse, it was Nima. The blade would go through the skull easy and end it, but it was Nima. He ran.
He ran into Gylnul’s room by accident, not realizing where he was going. She and her man for the night, Sir Gamen, were asleep together, until Mrdinar tore open the door and slammed it shut. The two woke up shocked. Gylnul screamed and covered her breasts.
“What the fuck, Mrdinar?” she yelled.
“Nima…alive…possessed…couldn’t…do it.” Mrdinar panted.
Gylnul got out of bed and put on a nightgown, “Nima? Oh, great, didn’t I tell you to put her down a few days ago? This is why! We knew this was necromancy. Couldn’t you have at least done something?”
“I should have”, Mrdinar said, on the verge of tears, “It was Nima, though. She couldn’t… it was too soon.”
Gylnul slapped him in the face, “She also was a fighter in your army. They always die young. What, did you think she’d survive your little assassination attempt? You’re lucky you got the chance to say goodbye. One of my lovers was there too. You know what happened to him? Commander Stone shoved a spear so far up his ass that it came out his mouth! So don’t you start whining about Nima.”
Mrdinar stopped. He took a breath, but then screamed in horror as a loud bang filled the room and a harpoon was coming out of Gamen’s diaphragm. Blood dripped down his chest as he screamed. Gylnul pulled out a gun from her dresser and promptly shot Gamen in the head.
“Mercy,” she told Mrdinar.
He nodded in response and ran to the armory. He pulled out a sword and noticed another was gone… along with the harpoon gun. He ran into the dark of the hall until he heard another bang of the harpoon gun being shot. He could tell it hit a poor soul from the sound it made. He followed that sound until he found Nima. She had lost a second finger, her index finger on her main hand. Her sword was sheathed and she was carrying the harpoon gun with her bad hand. She pointed it at him and fired. He jumped out of the way and the harpoon hit a wall. She discarded it rather than take the time to reload.
Mrdinar took the opportunity as Nima was discarding the gun and unsheathing her blade and sliced off her good hand with his sword. She stepped back towards the open door to the balcony. The balcony overlooked the treacherous Yndik River. Falling in meant a one way trip through rapids to the sea. Mrdinar swung his blade at her in a fury, not having the heart to kill her directly, but could push her off and let the river do the work. She kept stepping back until she reached the edge.
She looked into Mrdinar’s eyes and said, “Power without service is pain.”
Then she jumped.