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Crow

A powerfull sorcerer turned lich, though he doesn't remember how. The main source of Gammon's undead troops.

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a character in “Isles of the Black Sand”, as played by soulmiester

Description

Crow

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GENERAL INFO
Full name: - Doesn't remember
Alias/Nicknames: - Crow
Gender: - Male
Species/Race: – Was human, is now a Lich in service to Gammon
Age: - Died at the age of 17. Has, however, been dead for about twenty years
Title: - The Dead Crow
Alignment: - Evil all the way, but loyal to his Lord, so long as he provides ample magic samples for research.

APPEARANCE
Height: - 6 foot
Weight: - 180
Build: - Tall and lean
Eye Color: - Empty and grey
Hair Color: - Long and white as bone
Handedness: - Ambidextrous
Skin Shade/Color: - Pale as the moon

MENTALITY
Sexuality/Preference: - The dead care nothing for the pleasures of the flesh. The soul however, still feels love. (Straight)
Relationship/Marital status: - Can't recall if he was married
Family/relatives: - Probably dead
Sanity: - Definitely mad, but what dead man wouldn't be?
Mental Skills: - Can't remember most of his life, so not great. Anything to do with magic however, he can comprehend in mere seconds.
Likes: - Cold places, sturdy clothes, and music
Dislikes: - The sun on a hot day, broken things, and being dead
Personality: – A workaholic, he can think of nothing better than creating more soldiers for his dark lord. Other than that, he's your average 17 year old. He's just been 17 for alot longer than most. Occasionally gets lonely. Enjoys the company of his dark lord, eccentricities included.

EQUIPMENT
Weapons: – Two longswords, one thick and square for hacking and chopping, one thin and curved for stabbing and slicing.
Attire: – A thick black coat, a segmented chest plate, pauldrons, vambraces, gauntlets, and a helmet.
Accessories: – A thick clay mask in the shape of a human skull and a faded red scarf.
Miscellaneous: – A scabbard for each blade.
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FIGHTING STYLE(S)
General/Preferred Style: – Prefers not to waste time, killing those who stand against him quickly and with little mercy, either with blade or magic.
Hand-to-Hand: – Never fights barehanded if he can help it, though if he were barehanded he could easily crush his opponents with magic.
Weapons Style: – Overwhelms his opponents with a flurry of slashes
Special Abilities: – To regain magic, he can consume the soul of his victims. He also carries around thirty vials of the dark lord's blood, which is used to turn the strongest of men into Shades, powerful shadow like monsters that never die, and are completely loyal to the dark lord.
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(Soul consumption)

MAGIC
Is easily one of the most powerful sorcerers on the planet, capable of swathing an entire battle field in flame, consuming the souls of those who die, and then creating undead soldiers to expand his dark lords army. Is also an expert in spacial magic, and can transport himself and others to locations he's memorized well, or create a gateway of sorts to less well known locations. This however uses more magic, but has been useful for transporting large troop formations behind or inside enemy ranks. Some of the pockets in his coat are enchanted to directly access certain items in his chambers through small portals.

HISTORY
Crow. A black bird used to symbolize death and disease. That's what he is now, after all. Dead that is. He doesn't remember how it happened, or who he was before. But after wandering the Black Sand Isles, he was recruited by Gammon to join his conquest. Imagine the Dark Lord's surprise when Crow, single handedly decimated an entire platoon of human soldiers and proceeded to consume their souls. Since then, he's been invaluable in Gammon's war efforts. While Crow has no real interest in the land, treasures, or women his dark lord offers for his service, there is one thing he values quite highly. Magic. Anything magically related holds great value in Crow's eyes, either as a tool to amplify his powers or something to learn from.

What's a Sorcerer?
A Sorcerer differs from a Wizard in two ways. While Wizards cast spells based on their intellect, a Sorcerer doesn't so much cast spells as bend magic to his needs through sheer power of will. Secondly, a Wizard must memorize a spell if he is to cast it, while Sorcerers can use magic as freely as their imagination and will power allows. This makes Crow a very willful person, as well as extremely imaginative.

What's a Lich?
A Lich is a powerful sorcerer who, in exchange for immortality and even greater power, separates his soul from his body and places it in an object called a phylactery. A Lich can die a thousand times over and over again, but will only come back unless their phylactery is destroyed. No easy task, since Crow's phylactery lies deep within Gammon's keep, and is heavily guarded. He's proven to valuable to the dark lord to be killed off.

So begins...

Crow's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart

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Another man fell, his torso split from pelvis to shoulder from Crow's blade. Before he could hit the ground, the killer's hand shot out and grabbed the man's collar and drew him closer. To weak. He wouldn't even survive the Shade process. Sighing he pushed the man down and walked over his dying corpse. He walked across the battle field almost casually, his sword cutting down any who attempted to interfere. One man, however, held his ground, blocking each of Crow's blows.
"Oh? Not bad for a human... You'll do."

He took a step back and raised his left hand, then pointed to the man in front of him. "Hold!" He'd taught every Shade under his command this simple order. As if appearing out of thin air, a group of Shades surrounded Crow, while two grabbed the man and held him against the floor. The man thrashed, but it was all but impossible to over power even one, never the less two Shades. He sheathed his blade and drew from his coat a syringe and a vial of dark red blood. Very carefully, he drew a few drops of blood out from the vial before placing it back in his coat. He stepped up to the pinned man, syringe in hand and knelt. His and the man's eyes met, the man's wide and full of fear, Crow's grey and dead behind his skull like mask.
"Are you afraid? Do you hate that fear? Don't worry, after this, you'll never fear anything, ever again."

The man looked at him, bewildered, and would've spoken if Crow and not deftly stabbed the man between the ribs, straight into the heart. He pressed the plunger on the syringe, and watched as the dark lord's blood circulated through the man's body. He screamed in pain and writhed, his eyes sinking in and skin turning black. Next, the hair and nails fell out in bloody chunks, bones cracked and broke, and teeth fell out of the gums. Crow watched it all passively, and was even taking notes in a small leather book. According to previous turnings, if the eyes dissolved first it should be a successful transformation. He took a closer look and smiled with grim delight as the eyes withered then vanished in a haze of black smoke. The rest of the body soon followed, gathering in the air as black smoke, then coalescing into the rough shape of a man. A Shade.

Crow stood up and waved his hand, the other two shades released their new comrade.
"Welcome to Gammon's army. Serve your master well."
He scribbled something in his small leather book and shut it with a sharp snap. The book went into one of many pockets in his coat and he removed his helmet, shaking out his bone white hair as he removed the mask as well. It didn't matter if they saw his face, they would all be dead soon anyway. He looked fairly handsome for a dead man, or a dead teen in this case. He had only been seventeen when he'd died after all. He dug around in another pocket of his and pulled out a small black crystal holding what looked like a swirling cloud of black smoke. He tapped it once and watched as it glowed a deeper black. That signaled that a link had been established to his troops.
"Attention, today's quota has been met. Withdraw. Repeat. Quota has been met. Withdraw."

Each shade under his command heard this, and drew back from their opponents, then vanished. A cheer went up in the enemy ranks and they grew cocky, going in to surround the Lich. He grinned at them, and vanished in a flash of black light. He reappeared on a cliff overlooking the battle field he'd memorized before the battle began. A Shade appeared at his side to insure his protection. He shrugged and slipped off his gauntlets. They tended to interfere with his magic. Slowly he raised his hands, a red haze gathering around his body. For a moment, he levitated off the ground due to the sheer volume of magic he was gathering in this one spot. He screamed and directed this magic with his hands towards the army in the valley below. Suddenly the ground beneath them ripped apart as pillars of fire shot up to the sky, killing hundreds in a fiery inferno. Soon, none were left standing.

Crow panted lightly and reappeared in the valley, surrounded now by hundreds of charred bodies. He lifted his right hand now, a sickly green light gathering around his hand. Suddenly the same light gathered around each dead soldier, and something rose from their chests and flew to his upraised hand. Souls. Hundreds and hundreds of souls. Slowly these souls converged into the Lich's body, and he shuddered with the new found power. He was nearly done. Just one thing left to do. Now a inky black light gathered in his hands, and slowly spread to to each charred, soulless corpse. Those corpses shuddered and their eyes glowed red with malice. Sickeningly, each corpse lurched to it's feet, taking up sword and spear once more in death to serve Gammon. The Crow smiled and snapped, the shades reappearing in an instant.
"Secure this area and establish fortifications at each end of the valley. And train the new "recruits". We're far from done with this country."
With that command, he vanished in a flash of black. The whole battle had lasted about twenty minutes, and had brought five hundred shades into their ranks, along with three hundred of the undead. He appeared near Gammon's chambers, slipping his gauntlets back on when he spotted General Eckhart, the cruelest of Gammon's commanders.
"Eckhart old chum!" He pulled out a slip of paper from his leather book and proffered it to the general. "The results of the latest skirmish. I trust it will be to you like... ing." He frowned and tilted his head. That was his "My Lord has just asked something completely impossible but I'll find a way to do it anyway" face.
"What's he asked for this time?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart

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#, as written by Ten
After giving his report and receiving his new orders, Eckhart wasn't too eager to remain in the castle longer than was necessary. So, when he heard the telltale sounds of the Lich appearing in the hallway outside the Demon Lord's chambers, Eckhart restrained a cringe when his name was called. Turning to meet the undead lad's approach, he made no move to take the proffered paper, settling for a nod of acknowledgment. Even now, with the weight of his new orders settling heavily on his shoulders, he was mulling over their current battle strategies and trying to reorganize them to account for the task he'd been entrusted with. He was a warrior not a matchmaker! Although hunting for people wasn't beyond his capabilities... it was the "young" part of his orders that gave him the most discomfort and confusion. How young exactly did his Lord desire for a bride? Obviously not a child? With Gammon, he never could tell but it wasn't something he wanted to clarify lest he be forced to endure another heart-to-heart with his Lord in the form of shared libidinous fantasies.

Ever the perceptive one, of course the boy would sense the General's mood. Being in the higher ranks of Gammon's forces, he also had intimate knowledge of their Lord's more unsavory habits and whims enough to inquire about it. If Eckhart was honest, the teenager made him uncomfortable. Not in the way Gammon did, but the boy's undead state inspired a sense of unease and intuitive distrust. However, fighting closely with Crow and watching him work during some of the more ruthless and bloody coastal battles, he'd come to trust the young sorcerer's instincts and admire his strengths and skills. He was an ally at the top of the ladder where Eckhart stood. Now, the question was, if Eckhart should share this burden with him or not.

Glancing warily around at the empty hallway, making sure they were alone and unobserved, General Eckhart motioned at the lad's elbow and escorted him a few yards away from the door to the Demon Lord's chambers. There were no windows in this part of the castle, the braziers positioned every few yards on the corridor walls offering a suffocated illumination against the blackness that threatened to swallow them. Standing by the light of one of these, he turned slightly away from Crow and listened to the whispers of the nervously flickering fire while he tried to pick out shapes from the shadows at the far end of the hall.

"Our Lord has given me the task of finding him a bride," he said, his smoke-weathered voice echoing loud in the hall, despite his lowered tones. Lazily removing a small box from his belt, Eckhart took a few capsules from it and slipped them under his tongue, his voice sounding distorted while he held them in place. "Apparently, he is bored with his usual playmates and cannot content himself with reproducing by spreading forth his infected brood. I'm to hunt him down a wife who can bear him flesh and blood children."

Sucking on the capsules in his mouth, intoxicated as they slowly dissolved on his tongue and numbed by their gentle chemicals in his veins, he grew more relaxed, abandoning his paranoid search of the shadows to look at his comrade. "There's plenty of room for trial and error but I get the feeling he'll delight as much in the search as in the acquisition of his goal. You're welcome to help, if you like. I could use a young man's opinion when it comes to... taste. Light knows the years have favored me with experience but I no longer have a palate for the youthful or the innocent."

Even through his drugged haze, a shudder rippled through him for a moment and he twisted his lips in brief distaste. He could quibble and waffle all he liked about the revolting concept of a teen-bride but the truth of the matter, what really disturbed him: anyone they chose, whether they were old or young, or even if they were chosen or not, were doomed to be sacrificed to the savage, lustful will of his Lord. They would be consumed within that man's tainted embrace, forced to fulfill every dark desire and eventually give birth to abominations destined to rule.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon

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He sighed and withdrew the paper upon Eckhart's nod. He never seemed to bother to read his reports, though in all fairness his hand writing was fairly atrocious. Perhaps he'd spent to long reading the scrawled letters of many a magical tome, and had subconsciously decided that was what writing was supposed to look like? On that note, did he still have a subconscious? He frowned and pondered the question momentarily. Technically, his brain was dead, kept alive only by magic, along with the rest of him. Did that mean that his mind was also kept alive by the magic? Perhaps this seeming lapse of actual brain function was responsible for his lost memories? It was definitely a possibility. Hastily he drew out a second black leather bound book, this one worn with age and dog eared. He dug into one of his pockets and drew out a quil and opened the book. He was all out of pages. He "tsk"d and gripped the corner of the back cover, as if to turn a page. Suddenly a blank page appeared between his fingers, on which he scawled "Brain is dead, so memories are also dead?" On the other page were things along the lines of, "Mind erased by creator" "Gammon's doing. Conspiracy" "Don't want to remember." The last one was underlined several times.

He snapped the book shut and returned his belongings to their respective pockets. Lot's of things could be said about Crow. Amongst them, along with being an incredibly talented sorcerer and being dead, was this. He had LOTS of pockets. Some of them even held objects much larger than should be possible, thanks to his spacial magic. Once that was done, he looked back to Eckhart. He looked... well, human. Perfectly normal human being, with human needs and such what not. Working for the most powerful source of evil to ever surface on the face of this planet. He had to confess, the man was a tactical genius, his overwhelming knowledge of warfare nearly matched Crow's knowledge of magic. Separately, the two of them were extremely powerful generals, but together, like their time fighting the coastal battles, they were nearly invincible. Eckhart's expert tactical knowledge combined with Crow's powerful magic, both destructive and spacial, meant that they could strike at an enemies weakest point as soon as it appeared, and maneuver troops in whatever manner was required.

He frowned slightly as Eckhart cast his gaze about the hall. Crow had very few emotions left, but he was concerned for the larger man's mind. His constant paranoia made him a minor liability, but it was well worth the trade off. He followed the man slightly away from their lords chambers and stood near one of many large braziers. He stood a little ways further than Eckhart from the fire. As powerful as he was, his skin was still quite fragile and burned shockingly easily, which is why he wore such thick clothes. Then Eckhart spoke, dropping what would be equivalent to, say, a Lord of Vermillion's Canon, easily the most powerful spell in terms of sheer destructive power he'd read about so far.
"Our Lord has given me the task of finding him a bride. Apparently, he is bored with his usual playmates and cannot content himself with reproducing by spreading forth his infected brood. I'm to hunt him down a wife who can bear him flesh and blood children."

Crow would've turned pale if it were possible, but he lacked the color to do so in the first place. "A.. Bride!? A wife for the Dark Lord and soon conqueror of the Kingdom of Light?!" He took a deep breath, though it really wasn't necessary since he didn't have a working pair of lungs, and leaned against the black wall. He thought quietly to himself for a few seconds. Well, in a way it made sense. What did most kings do when they conquered a country? They married one of the local nobles to help calm the people. Though in this case, he highly doubted that would happen. Likely, entire cities would take up torches and pitchforks, but to someone like Gammon, it only made it more... what was the word? Fun? Perhaps.

"There's plenty of room for trial and error but I get the feeling he'll delight as much in the search as in the acquisition of his goal. You're welcome to help, if you like. I could use a young man's opinion when it comes to... taste. Light knows the years have favored me with experience but I no longer have a palate for the youthful or the innocent."

Crow nearly choked, trying to hold back laughter. He couldn't contain it though, and burst out laughing. "Y-Young man? I'm thirty seven! Well, seventeen for twenty years." He tilted his head and frowned again. "Well technically I'm twenty, since I don't remember ever being alive." He scratched his chin, though he didn't know why. It wasn't itchy or anything. He'd never had an itch for these past twenty years since his nerve endings were dead too. Maybe a habit from carried on with his reanimated body? He pushed the thought aside. His not-life seemed to teem with technicalities. "As for taste... I've never really put much thought into the matter. I suppose I'll just have to go ask him." With that, he turned back to the dark lord's chambers and knocked as hard as he dared without breaking his hand. He disliked how fragile his undead body was. he'd have to see if Gammon had anything to help with that while he was talking with him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon Character Portrait: Rek

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#, as written by Ten
Ah, yes, of course. With the sorcerer's youthful looks, Eckhart often forgot that the undead boy was not actually a boy anymore. It wasn't like Crow acted particularly youthful or immature in the way one would expect from a pup sitting in his position. He was missing the over-excitability of an eager to please bootlick and the brash arrogance of a punk too big for his britches. There was confidence there but also the power and strength to back it up, not to mention a melancholy and brooding air befitting a man with several years of battle and bloodletting under his belt. The General had just fallen prey to the misleading packaging.

"My mistake," Eckhart murmured noncommittally. He was so lost to the apothecary's cocktail he'd ingested, he was unperturbed by the lad's burst of laughter, shrugging it off with an apathetic head tilt.
As he was turning to leave, he commented breezily, "You do that. After you're done, come find me at the Atropa Belladonna. We'll regroup and plan our next strategy on Pelobus, particularly in regards to this new hunt." And maybe he could even get the Lich to transport him back to the mainland. Heaven knew he wasn't eager to go by ship again but he would if he had to.
Having said all he wanted to say and feeling pressured by the looming darkness seeping from the Demon Lord's chambers, Eckhart took a hurried stride out of the castle. Through the twisting, winding corridors and down hundreds of steps, while faint echoed moans drifted through the walls, following him from hidden and buried rooms, Eckhart finally found himself outside. Like he'd been holding his breath through the entire fortress, air exploded from his lungs and he took in great heaving gulps of afternoon air.

Unlike the mainland of Pelobus, noon on the Black Sand Isles was indistinguishable from the morning and afternoon. The sky was always in a constant state of threat no matter what time of day, overcast with graying, tumbling clouds that hid the twin suns from view. Not even the nights were clear, growing impossibly dark beneath rumbling red and purple storm clouds, the only illumination coming from a few lightning bolts stabbing at the horizon.
As a result, everything was colored with gray tones, diluted and gloomy. Even so, there wasn't much color on the Isles to begin with. The animals were black. The waters were black. The trees were twisted and black. And of course, the ground was black. Stones and metals dug from the earth, although strong and efficient for their purposes of fortification and arms, all reached the surface with black and gray coloring. There were no colorful flowers on the Isles, so all arts and tapestries were made with grayscale dyes, depicting high-contrast scenes in black and white relief.
Having grown up here, Eckhart wouldn't have it any other way. The sunlight and rainbow colors of the mainland sickened him and caused him headaches. Their fruits and flowers caused stomachaches with their strong scents and sweet tastes and all of their art was useless, gaudy trash. Even so, the General was eager to return, if only to continue his campaign of violence across the countryside. Because the only color he liked more than silver and black was the red of freshly spilled blood.

Walking through the town sloping down the hillside that the castle was built upon, Eckhart made his way to the Atropa Belladonna. A tavern and brothel that was well-known for it's beautiful and alluring Black Isle women, the wooden sign hanging above the door displayed the name wrapped in the twisted vines of a Deadly Nightshade flower and a pair of alluring, feminine eyes beneath it. Employing the best of the best, they were the type to chill a man's veins even as they warmed the blood. They were seducers of Death himself and women to die for. It was his favorite place to visit whenever he returned to the main island.

Deciding to take a moment to relax and soothe his nerves, he entered the establishment through the front door, gently fingering his gauntlets off.
****


After the General started walking away, there was a second's pause when Crow finished knocking before the doors gracefully swung open to admit him. The room was the same as the General left it, with Gammon still enjoying his drink while standing at the window. With the opening of the doors, he turned and approached them with a predatory look of madness in his black and red eyes. Upon seeing who was standing there, the expression dissolved to a more friendly one, the threat and madness hidden beneath a veil of seductive charm instead.

"Ah, Crow!" his multiple voices said with welcoming appraisal. "I was just about to summon you." He paused to let his leering gaze travel down the Lich's body before sweeping back up to his face. Tilting his head curiously, he asked, "How are things? Memory still giving you issues?" Gammon must have been going for a sympathetic tone but the creeping malice in some of his deeper voices and the taunting smirk he quickly hid behind his glass, while taking a sip, took away the impact of whatever emotional support he attempted to give. Not that he didn't like Crow, as he most clearly did but just like any other being both sentient and not, the undead sorcerer was a toy in the Demon Lord's eyes and Gammon loved to play.

"You've actually caught me right in the middle of my playtime," Gammon's voices purred, even as he leaned forward a little bit into Crow's personal space. "I hope you won't mind if I torture someone while we talk..." As he spoke those words, a shadow door bled from the wall by the bed and from it appeared a couple of Shades hauling a woman in restraints, chaining her to the floor in the middle of the room. The woman was in her middle summers with stern features yet attractive eyes and the telltale peach skin of someone who'd lived all their life in the presence of the sunlight to warm their days. Even here in the upper-most towers of the Demon Lord's castle, the woman did not scream or cry, holding herself firm and quiet, her features stony and proud.

"So, tell me what's on your mind," Gammon said, giving his attention over to Crow for the moment as he prepared his tools on a cart that the Shades had brought with them.

****


Even after their month-long journey across the sea, not many of the men on the ship were willing to join Pelobus's forces once they heard more about the forces attacking from the Isles of the Black Sand. It was all the rumors they'd heard confirmed and more, whispers of a sorcerer boy, scarred and masked who ate the souls of men and led legions of the walking dead. The cowards were beside themselves. Rek's comrades were planning on joining forces to help security in towns and cities that hadn't been attacked yet. Because of the efficiency of the opposing forces, there weren't a lot of refugees but they were going to help with the relocation of citizens on the run as well. Rek's plans, on the other hand, hadn't changed since day one: he was going to find a military outpost getting the most recent action and situate himself right on the frontlines. He'd come here to protect the Kingdom of Light and that was what he was going to do.

Buying himself a horse, he traveled southeast inland with enough food in his pack to last him a couple of days. Sadly, he was pretty much out of money at the moment but hopefully once he joined the Pelobus army, he'd start making some of it back. Enough to take care of himself at least.

On his warhorse, a surly, copper mount named Eb, he rode across countryside during the morning, coming to a large wood near midday. Rek spared himself no comfort, stopping only when he felt it was necessary and pushing the horse to cross the distance as fast as it was reasonably able. Eventually, as the sun made it's descent, he had to concede to the fact that he would need to rest and it'd be easier to care for his horse if he made preparations while there was still light in the sky. Slowing the horse to a canter, Rek put his nose to the wind and frowned warily at the smell of burning wood on the air.

So far, he hadn't passed very many villages or sign of enemy activity, even as he got close to the settlement he'd been told about. Still, he couldn't ignore the very distinct smell of burnt flesh and what it foretold over the next ridge. Bringing Eb to a halt in a small wood, Rek dismounted and tied the horse to a tree. Proceeding on foot, he removed his battleaxe from over his shoulder and held it between his hands as he stalked through the trees. Holding it firm and flexing his fingers on it, he felt the familiar tingle and restlessness that often overtook him when he ran into battle.

Even so, the pent up energy and adrenaline coursing through him came to a deflated stop as he came through the brush. Spread out before him was a sorry story of death and senseless destruction. The air was choked with the smell of the dead and the sounds of carrion birds and flies, buzzing madly in suffocating swarms over the charred remains of these poor people. Rek was not a stranger to death and although he felt sorrow, he immediately distanced himself from the horror of the gruesome nature of what surrounded him. Putting his axe away in the holster on his back, he ambled through the blackened village, his keen eyes searching for any clues as to what had transpired here. If these people had been attacked, did that mean there wasn't any Light forces keeping the enemy back? How had the Black Isles men made it through? And why would they destroy the village so completely? What was it they were trying to achieve by this utter madness and indiscriminate slaughter?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon

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He waited silently for a few seconds until the doors swung forward silently on perfectly oiled hinges. While the hinges upon the Dark Lord's door were perfectly silent, others seemed almost to be designed to create the most ominous of noises. He stepped into the suffocatingly lightless room, well it would be to most humans where as Crow found it perfectly suitable. He found most things to be perfectly suitable. Negative forty degrees? Perfectly suitable. Complete lack of light by which to see? Perfectly suitable. He shook the thoughts from his head when Gammon spoke, first appearing hostile but then friendly as he realized it was Crow. Crow nodded to the man in respect, one of the few human emotions he still seemed to have, then sighed as the man swept his lecherous gaze up and down his dead body. Disgust was one of the many emotions he no longer felt, so few of the Dark Lord's quirks troubled him. After all, how could one be disgusted by something when they were just about as disgusting as a corpse? More or less exactly in Crow's case.

"Glad to be of such convenience my Lord." Even his voice sounded dead and hollow. "If you're referring to the war effort, everything is moving ahead of schedule. As for my personal health... Well I'm still dead, so not to bad." At this, the woman in chains eyes widened, but only for a moment. Obviously she hadn't expected one of Gammon's generals, the Lich himself no less, to appear so... young. At Gammon's quip concerning his memory, Crow drew out his black leather book and quickly underlined "Gammon's doing. Conspiracy." and replaced the book. Gammon probably knew everything he had in that book, but it mattered little. To him, it was likely a game. "Little trouble, seeing as I have none my Lord."

Crow stood as still as a stone as Gammon entered his "personal space" and told him of his "playtime". "I don't mind, so long as you don't make to much of a mess my Lord. The last one took a solid week to get out of the carpets." He frowned and inspected the floor. "Actually, there still seem to be few bits left." He knelt down and picked up what appeared to be... A molar. He shrugged and placed it in a pocket, depositing it directly into a box in his chambers, containing a number of various "samples".

"Just a few things to report." He snapped his fingers and a clip-board appeared in his hands, along with a quill. "The Shading process has been nearly perfected. Whereas two months ago it required nearly four ounces of blood to turn a Shade, testing completed exactly five minutes ago confirmed that the process can be done successfully using only three drops of blood." He actually smiled as he said that. It had been a huge project, involving countless "volunteers", gallons of blood and weeks of effort. The final product however had been well worth it.
"We can now create up to fifty shades with the same amount of blood it would take to create one just two months ago."

He turned to the next page on his clipboard and continued. "Also, our previous battle was a complete success. Five hundred shades were created, along with three hundred undead. They are fortifying the valley as we speak." One of the shades clapped for a few seconds before realizing no one else was clapping, then let its hands drop. A newly turned one apparently, tended to hold onto some of their human habits and emotions for around a week or so. "In other news, my Death Day is coming up." He waved his hand in the air once or twice, party hats appearing on the heads of those in the room, including the shades and the chained woman, much to her befuddlement. They were, of course, black. There was confetti too, in the shape of little white skulls. They vanished when they touched the floor, almost like snow flakes did when they landed on your finger.
"You're invited of course. I think Eckhart said something about getting me something he called... "hammered", but I don't really think it sounded all to pleasant." He frowned and looked at the hand he'd knocked with. There were tiny indentations on his knuckles where muscle should be. "Not with my body as fragile as this anyway."

"Other than that, there's just the matter of your bride to be." He turned to a blank page and pulled out a quill, apparently to take notes. "Eckhart and I don't err... Really know your tastes my Lord. If you could clarify what we should be looking for, I'm sure it would speed up the search significantly." He sat down, a chair appearing behind him to catch him as he did. He could've simply pulled up a chair and sat in that, but magic was like a muscle. The more you used it, the more powerful it became. So he tended to use magic for just about everything, all to grow his power to even greater heights.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: Lord Gammon Character Portrait: Rek

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Although Gammon was interested and even amused by meetings with Crow, it didn't dissuade him from his current activity of bringing misery and pain to the woman chained to the floor.Even so, while in the middle of drawing an esoteric symbol on her stomach with a knife, he paused when the party hat appeared on his head. Giving it a small flick of his bloodied finger, he gave Crow a smirk over his shoulder. After putting the finishing touches on the symbol etched into his victim's flesh, the lines began to glow with an inner light. If Crow recognized the symbol at all, he'd know that it's purpose was to prolong the life of the one wearing it, no matter how fatal their wounds were.

Gammon had used the symbol multiple times to keep his playthings alive right up to the point where they were just a soupy mess of parts on the floor. Also, the little lines and circles drawn to the right of it were intended to amplify the woman's pain and keep her conscious through everything the Demon Lord planned to do to her. As of yet, other than a few odd looks shot in Crow's direction and a few grimaces while getting cut by her torturer, the woman's demeanor and stony silence had yet to break. That was okay though. Gammon liked a victim with strength of will. It made things more enjoyable when he had to fight for every scream he dragged from their throats.

When the Lich brought up Eckhart and the task he'd been given, Gammon took a moment to stand and return to his cart of tools. Facing Crow, he smiled and his multiple voices said in impassioned tones, "All good news, my friend. I always love to hear about the progress of the war. I cannot tell you how it fills me with pleasure to know that the Shades are being produced more efficiently. I knew you were the one to be trusted with leading that effort and getting the kinks of the process worked out.

"As for your other concerns..." Gammon's voices slowed as he thought to himself, a small, naughty smile appearing on his lips as he once again turned to his victim. Walking in a circle around her, he waved a knife in the air as he spoke, stopping occasionally to administer cuts to her thighs and arms. All the while, his voices, blending male and female tones together, remained conversational.

"I am aware of your Death Day arriving soon. In fact, I've scheduled you a banquet on that night to celebrate. We'll hold it right here in the castle and I've invited the entire citizenry of the Black Sand Isles to attend. It shall be a gloriously morbid party, with a gift required upon entry to the hall." Of course, attendance would be mandatory by threat of death but the Demon Lord overlooked that fact. Gammon paused, lost in fond musings for a moment, licking his lips as his voices crooned softly, "I remember when you first came to me... watching you work... seeing what you could do to a battlefield..."

Snapping out of it, the hazy look vanished from the Demon's red and black eyes, in a blink replaced with that shrewd madness once more. "My gift of course will be the best of all and I know you will love it the most. Eckhart, with all of his camaraderie and 'good times' won't be able to compete." Was that a hint of jealousy? Honestly, who knew?

Coming back around his victim to stand in front of the Lich, Gammon stopped and reached out a hand to softly pet the sorcerer's hand and fingers, ever so gentle but with a lingering touch. "I have just the thing for your little 'delicacy' problem. However, just because I love you Crow, doesn't mean you get presents for free." That leer was back, with another sweeping gaze that licked at hidden places beneath the Lich's robe with a small glow igniting in those red eyes. Without another word he swooped away to the far side of the room to where a cabinet stood beside the bed. Hidden from view, he manipulated a hidden latch and through thamaturgic workings, he opened the double doors before reaching within.

Turning gracefully on his heel, he returned to where Crow sat, the cabinet closing by itself with a soft "whoosh" and a click. Standing in front of Crow with a coquettish grin, Gammon said, "I have an ointment that will revitalize your skin, repair damaged tissue and create a bit of flexibility and resistance. Nothing extraordinary, mind you, just what you'd expect from anyone living. It needs to be used regularly to keep working consistently." Brandishing a small bottle at the Lich, Gammon held it out and bit his own tongue with malicious, playful glee. "That amount is enough to cover your entire... beautiful 17 year old body and it will work for an entire week.

"I will make you a deal, my little dead bird. I will continue to supply you with this concoction that will keep your body in fit fighting condition just like a real live boy, but if you successfully complete the quest to bring me a bride, I will tell you how to make it. As it stands, I've put a lot of work into binding the ingredients, so, I doubt you'll figure it out on your own." Through that adoring smile, the leer flickered with a small flash of paranoia but was gone in a calming sigh in the next. "But you're nothing if not patient and loyal, so, I probably shouldn't have bothered."

Clapping his hands once, the Demon Lord rubbed his palms together and walked with a restless air towards the bed, pacing back again as he broached the new topic. This was something he felt truly passionate about and he jumped right into talking about it without any hesitation - his victim lay forgotten on the floor, barely bleeding. "The woman I desire is to be young and beautiful. I'm not looking for beauty enhanced by makeups or fancy trinkets. I'm not looking for one ounce of beauty or one aspect of beauty - someone who 'only looks good in a certain light'. I want ethereal beauty. Angelic, fair, soul-wrenching beauty that will still the heart of this dark Lord. I want purity, untouchable, uncorrupted, innocence in mind, body and spirit. I've searched the Isles and all these women have been under the rule of darkness for far too long. They're tainted by it, covered in the filth flung from off my cape.

"This is someone you will have to find somewhere on Pelobus. The Kingdom of Light, with their fair-haired maidens and blue-eyed girls are bound to have somebody who fits the bill. Among the hundreds and thousands living in the mainland, I know you will find her. You and Eckhart, together will find me the perfect young girl to be my bride. She will be a queen, the perfect union between the light and the dark." With the last, he gestured to himself and came to a slow, languid stop. Giving Crow an illustrious smile, he raised an eyebrow and asked, "Is that all?" Obviously, he was done talking about this and was eager to get back to... the still living and wriggling business on his floor.

*****


Crows cawed angrily at one another, fighting for dominance over the feast spread out before them. The breeze drifted between what was left of scorched walls and fences, carrying smoke from the dimming fires still burning - and the scent of spilled blood and cooked flesh with it. Rek grimaced silently to himself and looked beyond the buildings to the mountain ash and evergreens surrounding him. It was just a peaceful mountain village. There were no notable fortifications on the border and from his brief inspection, it looked like they were very earth-centric with farming and gardening tools abandoned during the panic.

There were plenty of things Rek had done that he wasn't proud of in his life. He'd fought in civil wars to the West, quashed rebellions for the Sun King and even killed tribal savages in the mountainous Dead Lands to the north for territory and greed. When he flew into his berserker rages and let the battle-lust take over him, he didn't always stop and think about who was friend and who was foe before slashing down with his terrible axe. But never had he raised a hand to woman or child. It just didn't make sense.

Rather than continuing to mull over the ethical questions of this war and the enemy he was going to be fighting, Rek finally decided to leave. As he sauntered away, he stopped as the body of one of the fallen caught his eye. It was untouched by the carrion eaters and didn't seem damaged by the fire but Rek couldn't be certain. The teeth had fallen out as if rotted right out of the skull and parts of the flesh were torn and bubbled, exposing muscle beneath. But what caught Rek's attention and inspired his doubts about the fire being responsible was the eyes... A viscous coal black liquid oozed out of the orifices, congealing in the empty sockets and flowing down the cheeks in thick rivulets. What could have possibly done this? And why did the animals stay away? Not even flies swarmed the open sores and wounds like they did on the others.

That was when a noise suddenly grabbed Rek's attention, forcing him to spin around in a defensive posture. With his hand halfway up to grabbing his battleaxe from the holster on his back, Rek stopped when his eyes fell on the young girl and the fox in the middle of the path near him. A beautiful child of fair hair, his breath got caught in his throat when he saw her eyes, the clarity of the azure pools striking him right to the core of his being. She was soon joined by another girl who seemed older but both of them were of indeterminable age - all children were qualified as 'young things' in Rek's book. She too held the beauty of the other and although his immediate assumption was that they were related, he couldn't know for sure. Then again, about 6 seconds later, he really couldn't be bothered to care.

Stepping forth with a relaxed and calm gait, Rek cleared his throat and stopped a few paces from them. "Do not be afraid, younglings," he said in a neutral voice. "Where are your parents?" He winced internally, feeling at once shamefaced for his insensitive question. Clearing his throat again and pressing his fist to his lips, he looked away from them awkwardly before continuing, trying to save face. "Is this your village? Who did this? Speak up!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon

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He listened patiently to his dark lord after having given his reports, flipping through the pages once of twice to make sure he'd covered everything. He smiled quite happily, and quite eerily, when he was praised concerning his efforts in the shading process. While Gammon had the kind of smile that made women concerned for their maidenhood, men too at that, Crow had the kind of smile that made the leaves fall off trees and small children cry. He stood from his conjured chair and bowed deeply, making a small flourish with the long flap of his tooled leather coat, the upraised leather giving the illusion of intricate feathers. His other hand went up to keep the party hat from falling. "I shall do my utmost to ensure this praise was deserved my Lord." He eyed the intricate rune the dark Lord carved into the woman's flesh. An impressive display of his arcane knowledge, the kind of knowledge Crow had spent the past eighteen years under Gammon's command trying to learn.

He straightened as his Death day was mentioned, straightening his coat as he did. Since he had no recollection of his life, he had no idea when his Birthday was, so his Death day was a sort of backwards version of the former. Instead of celebrating the day he'd been born, they now celebrated the day of his death. To Crow, it was no secret that Gammon was slightly jealous of Eckhart. After all, Crow was obligated to spend the majority of his time both on and off the island with the man. This put Crow in a somewhat... precarious position. "I'm.. Uncertain what to say. Thank you my Lord! I'm certain whatever you've prepared will be more than perfect. It will certainly be more than I am deserving of." Secretly though, the idea of a banquet sat ill in his mind. After all, he didn't have a sense of taste! The only reason he ate was to ensure he had enough proteins and nutrients to maintain his muscles and skin. Things like wine, chocolates and other such delicacies held no value in his eyes. He ate expertly balanced meals using only salt as a seasoning, and even at that he only salted his food to maintain a healthy sodium level. As for this gift he spoke of... Knowing Gammon, it could be any of a hundred things. Only one way to find out, and that was to wait a week for his Death day.

Apparently Gammon had heard him mention the current fragile state of his body, because he brought the subject back up and pet his hand like one would a small and fragile cat. While he was incapable of disgust, the dark Lords touch and his leer combined stirred up something in his deep well of emotions. What was it? Ah, discomfort. After letting go of his hand, Gammon glided over to a cabinet in the corner of the room, which was of course black, just like everything else in Gammon's chambers, and opened it up, after about forty seconds of flipping secret levers and turning small knobs hidden in the woodwork. He returned holding a small vial filled with a strange liquid. Apparently it was some sort of rejuvenating ointment, created to make Crow's body like that of one still living. Upon hearing that, he all but snatched the small vial from the Dark Lord and began his inspection of the fluid. How was something like that possible? Perhaps something the lines of a youth potion, but specifically altered to bring something closer to a state it previously held? Knowing the extent of Gammon's magic, it could be done. "Very interesting... I accept your deal, on one condition. Please refrain from calling me beautiful, it's highly... irregular." The chained woman had the audacity to smirk at that, and Crow's all seeing eyes took note of this, quickly decided upon the proper response, and executed it.

He drew from a small but intricately patterned pocket what appeared to be a small, perfectly clear crystal. They were an item of Crow's creation called "Records". They varied in size, but all held the same purpose. They stored information, withdrawn from countless sources, whether it be a book, someones voice, a specific spell or even someones mind. He took the Record, rolling it gently between his fingers before pressing it against the woman's forehead. At first nothing happened, but suddenly the woman's eyes filled with shock and the Record slowly turned a deep black, images flashing briefly across its surface. He withdrew the Record and returned to his chair, watching the Record for a small while before tossing it to Gammon. "A gift for a gift. A complete Record of this woman's hopes and fears. I trust you know exactly how to use it."

He took complete notes of his Dark Lord's desires regarding his bride to be. Essentially, it sounded like the polar opposite of Gammon himself. Night and Day, Light and Dark. To the romantic that was still somewhere in Crow, buried under an immense pile of hatred and skepticism, it sounded beautiful and perfect. To the realist, which rested ontop of said pile, it sounded all around like a bad idea. Not that he could tell Gammon that, nor even imply it. "I believe that is indeed all my Lord. He stood up and waved a hand, the chair vanishing as he did. "Thank you for your time. I'll let you return to your... playtime." He bowed elegantly and turned, vanishing with a flash of black and the sound of flapping wings. All that remained to prove he'd even been in the room was a small black feather that fell where he'd been standing.

He reappeared in a small corner of his own chambers which had been set aside for his teleportation. The rest of the large room was... Well, odd. While Gammon's chambers had been an elegant black, Crow's room was filled with various colors. Strange plants sat under magic lamps which provided a controlled amount of artificial sunlight. Shelves upon shelves of books spanned across each wall, bound in various colored leathers. A complete human skeleton stood in one corner, held together with thin metal wires. Stuffed birds and reptiles and mammals and other... undefined things hung from the ceiling or sat ontop of shelves. Strange chemicals bubbled in strangely shaped beakers ontop of desk against a far wall. All in all, it was the chambers of a sorcerer. A well funded sorcerer at that.

He placed the vial on his favorite desk, carved from ebony wood, and stared at the shelves upon shelves of books, formulating a plan in his head. He jotted his ideas up in the air, where they stayed and glowed with a green light. He drew diagrams and formulas until he was satisfied. Yes, this could be done... and it would be much more efficient. He climbed a small ladder against his bookshelf and started pulling out books, which floated in the air next to him. First was the Necronomicon, followed by A Complete study of the human body, and finished off with A Study of Theoretical Enchantments. He sat at his desk and flipped through said books until he found what he needed. But if the enchantment failed, the ointment would be destroyed... Better do some test runs first.

He prepared three variations of the enchantment known as Never Ending Bottle, one from the book, one he vaguely remembered from around seven years ago, and one based off the book, but with certain elements he believed would work better. Done correctly, the enchanted container will never run out of whatever fluid is contained within. He filled three beakers with water and placed the enchantments on each. The first was... almost right, but instead of never running out of liquid he now never ran out of beaker. He cast a dispell before it got to out of hand. The second failed miserably. The water had become wine an expensive red wine. He shrugged and corked it, no point in wasting it. The third was less obvious. It looked no different than before. Experimentally, he took it to the open window and poured the water out, and kept pouring. He waited about half a minute, but he was still pouring by then so he decided that the third had been a success. He removed the text from replaced it with his successful enchantment, a small black star in the top right corner marking it as a success. Replicating it on the ointment vial was a simple task, and pouring the ointment into another vial revealed that it had been successful. There were now two vials of ointment.

Next he recreated the human sweat gland system with one twist. It would secrete the ointment at a slow rate and keep his skin and muscles as healthy as any living person for as long as the vial remained intact. But for now, he removed his clothes and placed them on a chair, then rubbed the ointment into his skin. He gasped at the nearly instantaneous results, his muscles firming up and his skin becoming more elastic and healthy. Even his hair felt better! He slipped his clothes back on and looked in a mirror. He looked... alive. Pale as the moon but alive! He grinned and flexed his muscles. They were more firm and defined and... well beautiful. He laughed and thought about telling Gammon he call him beautiful as much as he wanted, but that was probably a bad idea. He corked the second vial and placed it in a secret compartment of his desk before going into his teleportation corner. In a flash of black and the sound of flapping wings he was gone.

He appeared outside the Atropa Belladonna, sighing slightly. He... disliked this establishment. It felt like the women here made a game of seeing if they could get a rise out of him. He shook his head and slipped inside, sitting down at a bench and toying with his new fingers. A "waitress" placed a glass of clear water in front of him and winked, leaning down a little to far to show off her bosom before sauntering away. He sighed and sipped the water. His lack of desire for carnal pleasure was a game to them, despite him being one of Gammon's generals. But what could he do? They were, after all, indiscriminately doing their jobs. He saw Eckhart and waved him over, placing the never ending wine beaker on the table in front of him. "A failed enchantment, but I prefer not to waste useful things. Consider it a gift."