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Legend of the Blood Raven
by Devon McLaughlin
“I will wipe them off the face of the earth! The infestation must be dealt with.”
The air inside the spacious tent crackled in sinister energy.
Savas-Zev was in a foul mood. He stalked about the tent in anger, garments swirling in his wake—not precisely wizard’s robes yet not a cape either. Dask, one of his many captains, shuddered in terror of his master and shrank against the tent wall, fearing to let even the hem of the wizard’s fabric touch him. It was a strangely enchanted garment whose color fooled the eye. It was a dark shade of…something. Sometimes the fabric appeared midnight blue, sometimes green, sometimes velvet red. But it changed with the angle of its wearer and the brightness of the light. Constant observation of the robes usually gave the gazer a headache. Dask was now convinced they were sentient and changed in accord to the master’s mood.
The robe/cape thing glimmered and flashed deep velvet red now. Dask knew this was never a good sign.
Savas-Zev was a thin, half-starved, rakish looking man with sharp features and limp black hair falling back from a quickly balding head. His black beard was cut to a point at his chin, which he liked to fondle and tug when upset, like now. His slanted, squint eyes almost disappeared into their sockets as he stalked, muttering and glowering to himself. Dask was glad indeed those beady, evil orbs weren’t turned his way. The eyes of Savas-Zev unnerved him most of all. As pale and unhealthy as his skin, his eyes were paler still, the lightest shade of gray imaginable with tiny pinpoints instead of pupils. Dask thought they looked like some dead thing long buried. Those eyes didn’t belong on someone still very much in the land of the living.
Dask caught the word “dwarves” muttered from time to time in his master’s garbled speech.
“Maybe the dwarves will get word of our advance and will flee in fear before us. Surely the terrible fame of your troops has spread far and wide by now,” Dask finally dared to say in a trembling voice.
“Not likely!” Savas-Zev said aloud.
Dask just heaved an immense sigh of relief the master’s eyes had not accompanied the words.
“Besides, that would deprive me of all my fun,” Savas-Zev returned maliciously.
The wizard then slew Dask’s final hope and looked him full in the face with those demented eyes…eyes which should not be.
“No, if anyone exterminates the dwarves from this place then it should be me. And I want to be there to witness every tormented dwarf’s soul as it screams its last pleas for mercy.” Savas-Zev’s words dripped with utter scorn and hatred.
Dask recovered somewhat when the hated gaze was turned away from him. He caught his breath briefly and then dared to ask a bold question.
“Why the dwarves? Why do you hate them so?”
Savas-Zev picked up a heavy dwarf-made axe, straining to do so. He admired and hated the workmanship, the perfect detail, the skill and care taken to craft the weapon, and more besides. Just by touching the axe the wizard could feel and see the face of the dwarf who had created it and those who had been around him although they had been dead many years.
His face twisted in an angry scowl of distaste and he spat his hatred on the axe as if to cleanse it from its emanations.
“The dwarf race are a plague on the land, on any land they inhabit,” he replied. “They delight in making every other race seem lazy. They hate any magic but their own.” Savas-Zev said his next words with a scornful snort. “As if theirs is all that great!”
“Any wizard with the most rudimentary training can overcome a dwarf-spelled weapon or trinket. It is a minor inconvenience. But it is more than that.” The wizard strode over to his scrying bowl.
“Every race has its weak spot where they can be bent, and molded. The humans are easy. Just offer them power or wealth beyond their mortal grasp. The elves can be cajoled with clever words and magic promises disguised as truth and justice. But dwarves! Dwarves cannot be bent, persuaded, perverted, beaten down or enslaved in any way. Once they’ve made up their minds, that’s it. Pompous fools!”
“There’s rumors the dwarves of Tor Ambroc may attempt to negotiate a truce with you,” Dask suggested.
“They will offer but it is useless. They have already made up their minds. They will never bend,” he spat. “But I will accept their truce. It will do them no good. Their end will be the same.”
Savas-Zev turned his hated gaze on Dask and the man quailed and cowered fearfully under it. Seeing this reaction, the wizard smiled. He liked his subjects’ fear. It assured him they were too afraid of him to do anything but obey without question.
“The dwarves are a plague on the land, as I said before. A plague they are, and a plague they will get. It shall be great fun to watch them suffer and die one by one. They deserve no less from me.”
There was a commotion at the door of the tent. Two heavy, half-human guards bodily dragged in a kicking and struggling dwarf who was swearing and spluttering curses.
“Ah, this is the spy you found skulking about our little encampment!” Savas-Zev said cheerfully rubbing his spidery hands together in anticipation of his amusement. The wizard waved away the guards and they were more than happy to dump their prey and leave his hated yet feared presence.
Dask shivered and cowered further away knowing what was to come and dreading every bit, even though he knew he would not be the target.
“You will not need those here,” Savas-Zev said and, as he waved a thin hand, the sturdy handcuffs and iron chains fell away.
The dwarf looked down at his freed bonds and back to the wizard in surprise. Then he stood up straight, proud and utterly defiant.
“I’ll still not be tellin’ ya nothin’!” he insisted.
“Oh but you shall, my little bristly friend.” Savas-Zev waved his hand again, levitating the dwarf into the air before him. “You will tell me everything I wish to know and more besides. You will tell me the truth because you will have no choice. And then…maybe…I will release you to your dark, little holes.”
Dask shuddered in terror. He knew it was an empty promise. Savas-Zev never released any dwarf except by death.
Dask crawled into the darkest corner of the tent and huddled there, eyes squeezed shut and rocking madly. He dreaded what was to come. He dared not leave for Savas-Zev would catch him and be very displeased indeed. And yet he was so relieved it was the dwarf and not himself in front of the cruel wizard now. He would still be alive tomorrow morning.
The dwarf would not.
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Note: the above quoted material is copyrighted. © Devon McLaughlin. All rights reserved.