Nekril was not one to experience fear. He was a living weapon, the ultimate combination of magic, might, mind and menace, honed to a razor's edge by the most ruthless trainers and driven by the knowledge of his own destiny as the one who would eventually be uncontested emperor of all he surveyed.
But Nekril was afraid.
The dark green skin on his hands and knees made a very interesting pattern, some detached part of his brain thought, when spattered with his own crimson blood. As if from far away, he heard his own voice say "I am sorry".
A blast of magic hit Nekril, knocking him off of his hands and knees and into the far wall. Bits and pieces of his body changed to stone before changing back to normal.
"You speak as though you expect me to have some shred of mercy within my being, which I assure you, I do not." The voice was hard and cold, like the sound of bones scraping across a stone dungeon floor. "For what you have done, I should kill you where you stand."
"But Master..." pleaded Nekril. "The girl..."
"Would have been dealt with. Her death would have been assured by the public hatred surrounding her and the one who is now her husband. You, however, went and made her a hero. You made BOTH of them heroes. Furthermore, you revealed to them a spying spell which they had not previously detected. You enabled your sister to reveal information which resulted in the total destruction of Devil's Strand. And do you know what else your bumbling has done?"
Nekril shook his head violently, terrified to speak either way.
"You have set into motion a most unfortunate series of events. Even now, the founders of the third city of light are being formed in the womb. Had you obeyed my commands, their father would have remained infertile."
"But Master..." Nekril protested. "That was the doing of Kayrok.. He..."
"SILENCE!" The lutin was thrown to the floor where his torso began to draw in his limbs and shrink to that of a fish. He gasped for breath as he flopped helplessly. "Kayrok is a thorn in my side and would be dealt with swiftly but for the adversary. I am not concerned as much about what he does as what YOU do. You have proven an embarrassment to me, Nekril. What shall I do with you?"
Nekril found himself to be a hobgoblin once again, and strove to reply. "Improve me."
The voice in the darkness seemed momentarily at a loss. "What?" It barked.
"You could kill me, Master, but what would it accomplish? You have in me a powerful weapon which needs no further crafting of the body. If I am but a fool, then help me to remove my foolishness and I will be your perfect sword, flawless and deadly."
"You hide your cowardice well behind your glib tongue, halfbreed, but you make a good argument. Very well. You will be permitted to live for now. After all, if I can put up with the idiocy of Nasoj, the brainless wizard, and the sheer arrogance of that bloated pig, Qor, I can surely tolerate you for a little while. However, there is one difference between you and them, Nekril. Do you know what that is?"
Nekril only shook his head.
"They do not know that they serve my interests. You do. You won't botch things again for that very reason, you slimy green ape, will you?"
"And whatever else happens, you must not permit the building of the third city of light. You are dismissed.
With a flash of fire, Nekril was gone.
The voice turned inward in the darkness. "The enemy has become too strong." it said to itself. "Already they have their two cities in place. In the east is the city of faith. In the west, the city of hope. Love must not be permitted to gain a foothold." * * * On the roof of Duke Hassan's palace, a woman dressed in a flowing white robe looked down upon the Keep with love and concern. The woman would have been quite lovely to anyone who could see her. She had a build that was soft, but not fat, and soulful pearl-black eyes like a sea otter. No one could see her, though, save for the one who was approaching. Though dressed in a robe like hers, there was no mistaking his handsome green face.
"The enemy is on the move once again." said the man. "It is his intention to destroy the children of Oren and Vitra."
"Then we must be vigilant. He'll not harm them while we are here."
"No he won't. However, his evil must be permitted to grow before it is destroyed. Even the enemy is a part of the master plan."
"Much as I hate to admit it." said the woman. "Many will die before his purpose is served. Most of them won't be as fortunate as you and I."
The lutin sat down on the roof and gazed at the people below. "We don't have to do his, you know. Our master has more than enough servants to do this work. And besides, we've earned our rest."
"Would you like to go home and rest?"
And so Metamor Keep went about its business, completely unaware that it
was under the protective watch of two caring strangers named Sawana and