Book III - Sample Chapter
Here’s a sample chapter to tide you over while book III is being edited. This is a Pyrak chapter, and it gives a few hints at how the former demon lord will impact the rest of the story.
This is the raw, unedited text, so please forgive any mistakes you might come across.
Pyrak wished he could close his eyes, wished he could shut out the smothering darkness of the void with a darkness of his own design. He ached to feel the small muscles around his eyelids retract; to hear the feathers about his head rustle with the minute movement. He ached to draw breath into his lungs and spread his wings, but even these simple, pedestrian pleasures were denied him. In truth, he had neither eyes to close nor feathers to rustle; in fact, he had no physical body whatsoever.
The former demon lord existed in a state that he could hardly define. He had consciousness, certainly, but his imprisonment within the terrible, sentient sword, Fiendbleeder, left him in a strange limbo between existence and nonexistence. When the sword desired to communicate with Pyrak, the demon lord was given form and substance, seemingly inhabiting a body that was in every sense his own. However, he knew that this was simply an illusion, a way for Fiendbleeder to gloat or mock him with a variety of fabricated realties.
So far, the sword had favored the body of the strange human-turned-demon Hazergal when it took physical form. It also used Hazergal’s throne room – pulled somehow from the human’s memory – as a backdrop when it wished to taunt Pyrak. Like a spoiled child-king, Fiendbleeder would sit upon Hazergal’s throne, forcing Pyrak to kneel or otherwise subjugate himself in some way before the cruel entity. Then it would regale its former master with tales of its own “glorious” past, highlighting particularly the instances when it had brought other demon lords to their destruction.
But Fiendbleeder’s moods were fickle, and sometimes it left Pyrak, horribly conscious and aware, in a prison of emptiness from which there was no escape. Despite the sword’s mocking, Pyrak yearned for those welcome interludes where he was allowed to see, hear, and feel – even if it was only an illusion. He had become obsequious, even fawning, during his “audiences” with Fiendbleeder, hoping to maintain the sword’s interest and extend his time - even for a few precious moments - in a sane, physical reality.
Recently, Pyrak had played the part of the broken slave so well that Fiendbleeder had allowed him to dwell in the created reality of Hazergal’s throne room, even when the sword was not present. In addition, Pyrak was allowed to view the outside world, looking through the misty envelope of Fiendbleeder’s mind into Hedrenatherax’s abode beyond.
Unfortunately, this reprieve from the stark nothingness of his current prison had abruptly ended.
The sword had been enraged when last Pyrak was allowed to taste the sweet fruit of light, sound, and physical form. Hazergal had come very close to completing a large part of Fiendbleeder’s plan by simply taking the sword from where it hung in Hedrenatherax’s throne room. This would have allowed the sword to exert its considerable influence over the rapidly evolving Hazergal, guiding the former mortal’s destiny in a direction that suited its own designs. But the untimely arrival of Gemnez and Hedrenatherax had foiled the opportunity, and Fiendbleeder’s rage had filled Pyrak’s world with pain…and then only darkness.
There was no way for Pyrak to track the passage of time, although it seemed a long while since Fiendbleeder had summoned him from the void. The sword was likely still fuming over the loss of such a prime opportunity, and it deigned to punish the one creature it could still exert power over. Pyrak guessed that Fiendbleeder had somehow realized that it could inflict no greater torture upon him than this horrid state of nothingness, where he dwelled with only his own self-loathing and despair to keep him company.
Occasionally, while he endured what could be an eternity of darkness, he thought he sensed, somewhere on the edge of his perception, a presence. A fleeting glimmer of another mind that, in his desperation for a reprieve from his formless interment, he flailed about hungrily for, only to find that it had slipped away. Despite the horror and loss he felt each time he was unable to locate the “other,” it still left him with some hope, however infinitesimal, that he was not alone.
It seemed that each time the other presence manifested, it was stronger, more confident, although just as elusive. Despite his inability to reckon time, Pyrak felt that the presence came to him more frequently, as if it was somehow interested in the tortured demon lord. Of course, Pyrak had little choice but to accept the possibility that there was no other presence, and he had simply begun the steep decline into madness. But such thoughts availed him little, and now, as he floated in the pervading silence of whatever dark corner of Fiendbleeder’s mind he had been thrust into, he felt the presence again.
If Pyrak had had a body it would have been quivering with excitement. He forced himself to control the surging hope and anxiety that had been generated by the other’s reappearance. Tentatively, he stretched out with his mind, attempting to assuage whatever trepidation the alien presence had about revealing itself fully.
Are you there? Pyrak thought into the smothering emptiness. Please, just talk to me, he begged, disgusted with the terrible loneliness and desperation he heard in his plea.
Pyrak waited; hope fading with each moment there was no reply. The former demon lord suddenly felt rage, hot and acrid, well up within him. How could this presence simply ignore him? Why would it not respond?
Damn you! I am here! His mind howled into the darkness, and suddenly, the world was drowned in a flood of light and sound. Pyrak gasped at the sudden maelstrom, and then, with great pleasure and relief, realized that he had drawn air into his lungs with that reflexive intake of breath.
Pyrak found himself once again in his own body, or at least the facsimile his mind created for him when Fiendbleeder allowed him to take physical form. However, the expected onyx and crimson throne room that the sword so often manifested was conspicuously absent, as was the gloating, bearded form of Fiendbleeder itself. The former demon lord found himself a far less grandiose environment, and in the presence of a far less impressive individual.
Pyrak stood in a small oblong cavern, perhaps forty feet long, with a low ceiling that brushed the top of his feathered head. The walls were unworked stone, gray, and noteworthy only in their complete lack of color and texture. The floor beneath the demon lord’s feet was sandy, and he reveled in the simple sensation of the fine granules grinding softly between his taloned toes.
There was light; provided by a guttering fire contained in a shallow depression near the north end of the cavern. Hunched over this fire was once of the most wretched creatures Pyrak had ever laid eyes on. The other inhabitant of the cave was a malformed humanoid, standing barely five feet tall on two squat, pillar-like legs, and looking for all the world like a mound of squashed, brown clay. Two limbs hung from its lumpy torso, each ending in a clumsy three-fingered hand, and a head, which resembled nothing so much as a smashed melon, wobbled upon a thick, ungainly neck. For a face the creature offered only two small eyes, like tiny black pebbles pushed into the lumpy ruin of its head, and a wide lipless mouth, which was currently turned upward in a smile.
“I’m sorry this is the best I can provide for us,” The creature said suddenly, spreading its fat, sausage-like arms. “I just can’t remember much more than this.”
Pyrak strode the short distance across the sandy floor to stand over the squat, little creature. He stared down at it, disgusted by its malformed body, but nevertheless excited beyond all measure just to have another being to speak with. “Who are you?” he asked.
The creature stared up at him, it’s slack face still creased in a smile. “My, you’re a big one, aren’t you. And so well made. You must be new,” it said.
Pyrak squatted down next to the fire, which burned despite the fact that there was nothing to fuel it. “Please,” he said, calmly. “Tell me who you are. What is your name?”
“My name?” The creature, suddenly frowned, and its wide, shapeless brow furrowed. It was silent for a moment, as if the simple question required much effort. “Ah! That’s right!” it suddenly cried, happily. “My name is, or was, Chemosh.”
“Chemosh,” Pyrak repeated. The name was oddly familiar to him, although he wasn’t certain why.
“Yes, Chemosh,” the creature said again, smiling. “I’m sorry, I haven’t used a name in so long; most of us have forgotten them by now, you know, especially the first. It’s so hard to recall those little things, but they’re so precious. So precious.”
Pyrak stared at his curious host, wondering what in the Abyss it was talking about, but he couldn’t help but be utterly engrossed by Chemosh’s words. “What is this place?”
“Hmm? Oh, this?” Chemosh said, absently. “It’s just what I can remember. I assume it’s a cave; maybe I lived in one at one time. The fire is new. I was never able to do that before. How do you like it?”
“It’s wonderful,” Pyrak said, and meant it. The tiny bit of heat radiating from the flames was pure ecstasy on his sensory deprived body.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t bring you here sooner,” Chemosh said, frowning. “I just wasn’t sure if you were real or not. The others didn’t think so, but when I felt your anger, I knew you were there. It’s been a long time since we had a new soul to talk to.”
“A new soul…” Pyrak muttered aloud, and then the realization crashed into him. “You’re one of Fiendbleeder’s former masters, aren’t you. You were a demon lord, like myself.”
Chemosh frowned again, and his face suddenly sharpened, became more distinct. For an instant, Pyrak saw something powerful and ancient staring back across the fire; it was the face of an archfiend, horned and majestic. It was gone almost immediately, sinking back into the doughy insubstantial mass that was all Chemosh could remember of his former self.
“That seems right,” Chemosh said slowly. “I don’t remember much, but sometimes there are faces and names and places in my mind, but they don’t mean anything.” The little creature’s frown deepened. “Maybe I was like you once,” he said. “Strong and beautiful; yes, like a lord, a demon lord.”
“The sword has forgotten about you, hasn’t it?” Pyrak said. “Grown bored with you and cast you aside. I wonder if it even knows that you linger still, fading away into the darkness of its mind like an old, tired memory.”
It was monstrously cruel, even for one so wicked as Fiendbleeder. Pyrak was no stranger to cruelty; he had thrived on it, created it, and nurtured it. As a demon lord, cruelty had been his stock and trade, but there had always been a purpose behind it; it served the greater design of the multiverse. But this – this slow consumption and eventual extinction – was unnatural. Pyrak was suddenly sick with fear as he stared across the fire at the misshapen remains of what was once a powerful demon lord. He was looking into the grim reflection of his own fate.
“It has forgotten about all of us,” Chemosh said, sadly. “But we remain, losing the pieces of ourselves through the sieve of time, bit by bit. Most of us cannot even create so paltry a vision as this cave, or take a form more lovely than what you see now.”
“How many others are there?” Pyrak asked. Fiendbleeder had existed for so long, it could have easily devoured the souls of dozens, maybe hundreds of demon lords and other archfiends before it found its way to Pyrak.
“Oh, I’m not sure,” Chemosh said. “It’s hard to distinguish one from the other at times. Sometimes, it’s almost as if we are all part of the same thing, one great mind slowly fading into the darkness.”
“Can’t Fiendbleeder sense this,” Pyrak swiveled his head to indicate the small cave, “this construct you’ve created?”
“Perhaps, perhaps not,” Chemosh answered. “This meeting between you and I is happening within the confines of our minds. It is the one bastion that remains to us, and I think not even Fiendbleeder can enter this domain, feeble as it is, without our leave.
“But what about me?” Pyrak asked. “Fiendbleeder is not done with me yet.”
“The sword can likely summon you into its own thought whenever it likes,” Chemosh said, shrugging its malformed shoulders.
Pyrak nodded, suddenly relieved that Fiendbleeder perhaps was not able to detect his meeting with Chemosh, and therefore deprive him of the simple pleasure of conversation with another intelligent being. The demon lord stared around at the drab confines of the cave, wondering. “How have you created this place, Chemosh,” he asked.
“I don’t know how, I just visualize it, and it appears,” he said. “As I said, it must be a place that I was familiar with, although, if you say I was a demon lord, I would think I could muster better accommodations than this,” Chemosh smiled, weakly. “Unfortunately, this is all I can remember now.”
Pyrak closed his eyes and visualized the grandeur of his floating palace in the Abyss. He saw the ivory columns in his throne room, each painstakingly carved with detailed images of cavorting demons. In his mind’s eye he stood beneath one of the soaring columns, as it rose to meet the glass ceiling above, through which he saw purple clouds drifting lazily in the abyssal sky. He imagined reaching out to feel the cool stone beneath his fingers as he traced the raised image of a particularly lovely succubus. The stony scrape of his talons against the stone intoned musically in his ears, and he was suddenly overcome with the simple happiness of such a fond memory. The picture in his mind grew more distinct, and other details of his throne room began to take shape. His throne, the marble floors reflecting his image like a polished mirror, the smell of blood and the dust as it blew upon the endless winds of Vrack, all of it – he was home. He sank deeper into the memory, letting it fold about him like a warm blanket. He could have stayed there indefinitely, but Chemosh’s gasp brought him out of his reverie with a start.
Pyrak opened his eyes and saw one of the pillars of his throne room before him, its carvings gleaming in the guttering firelight. The base of the pillar was sunk into the sandy floor, and its truncated top merged seamlessly with the stone above. The carving nearest him was of the succubus, the detail so fine he could actually see her sharp teeth through the full-lipped smile she offered, seductively, to all who viewed her.
“Oh, lovely!” Chemosh exclaimed and waddled over to the pillar. He ran his hands over the creamy stone; his stumpy fingers found each carving and traced its outline, and with each new discovery he breathed out a sigh of such rapturous joy that Pyrak smiled in spite of himself.
“This is one of the pillars that held up my throne room,” Pyrak said. “ I paid nearly ten thousand larvae to have them constructed by the best mortal stonemason that ever lived. The night hag that sold me his soul told me I was getting a bargain. I didn’t believe her until I saw the mason’s work.” Pyrak stood and placed one hand on the pillar. “This one was my favorite.”
“Thank you…thank you for this,” Chemosh breathed. “It has been so long since I have had anything new to see or feel.” The stunted demon continued to caress the pillar; his ugly face was alight with child-like joy.
Pyrak watched Chemosh for a few moments and felt the dark stirrings of opportunity swirl within his mind. “Chemosh, I think I can create more than just this pillar. Would you be interested in seeing something else?”
Chemosh stared open-mouthed at Pyrak, his small, stony eyes suddenly hungry with desire. “Oh yes, please, show me more,” he said.
“And I shall,” Pyrak nodded. “But I want to meet the others you spoke of. I want to show them what I have shown you.”
“The others…” Chemosh said, hesitantly. “I can’t take you to them. They must come to you, as I did.”
Pyrak was silent for a moment, his mind whirling with possibilities. If the souls of other demon lords resided within Fiendbleeder, however eroded they may be, then perhaps they could be set to some purpose, some direction that would serve him. The former demon lord stared at the pillar he had conjured out of his mind, and his great, beak spilt into a ghastly smile. “They will come Chemosh. I will give something grand to look upon. I will give them a memory that will make them remember what and who they are.”