Remus sat up as the door to his makeshift cell opened. His Uncle stood in the doorway for only a moment as he eyed Remus with a stern gaze. When he stepped aside a tall freakishly thin man entered the cell. He had to duck his head to avoid hitting the door frame.
“This is one of yours Vendurn?”
“He’s of House Castilio. Second born of my brother,” Remus’s uncle answered.
Taking a deep breath Remus stood up and faced his visitors.
“Uncle,” he greeted with a nod, “Sir, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
The tall man smiled serenely, “I was curious about my colleague's family. I wanted to meet you and invite you to see the accumulation of several months' work. My name is Victor.”
Remus glanced between the two waiting for more to be said. After a moment of silence passed the tall man stepped to the side of the door bade Remus through. Cautious about the small change in hospitality, hesitated and decided to ask a few questions before he stepped out into the corridor.
“If you wouldn’t mind me asking, what project have you the two of you been working on?”
“Three of us actually,” replied the tall man, “there were three of us though I hear the Daughter of our Dark Lord-.”
“The Usurper,” Interrupted Vendurn.
“Yes, the Usurper, and yet still we must not forget she is one of the few blessed by our master, Daughter of the Night as it were.”
Vendurn looked like he very much disagreed with the idea, giving Remus the impression that his Uncle only cared about the fact that Gwenyth had taken the throne in spite of the Dark Lord’s death.
“However,” continued Victor, “It seems in her judgement she saw fit to execute our former colleague. We underestimated the growth of Lady Gwenyth and our college’s death came as a bit of personal shock to me when your dear uncle reported the news. Thankfully by then we had nearly finished our work with the exception of a few minor but not insignificant details.”
The Victor smiled serenely, “now I insiste you join us for our great triumph.”
With no small amount of apprehension Remus stepped out into the corridor outside his cell. The corridor was as dreary and cold as his cell. Ice glinted occasionally off the stone walls. Remus shivered a bit before nodding politely to the guard outside his cell. The man’s only response was to scratch his short frost covered beard with a look of annoyance.
When everyone had left the cell, the guard took a torch from off the wall and led them down the cold corridor. Behind him, Remus could hear his uncle and Victor conversing in low tones. Whenever he glanced back at the two his eyes would meet the angry scornful look of his uncle’s gaze.
They made through the twists and turns of the corridor, navigating past collapsed portions of the ruins and guarded rooms. When chance permitted, Remus tried to take stock of what his uncle’s forces had in the way of supplies, armaments and potential chances he could use to escape. He doubted he would be freed anytime soon, whether he escaped or his uncle allowed him to leave made no difference. Even if he did escape his chances of surviving the out in the cold mountain terrain till he chanced on finding Gwenyth’s forces unlikely.
The best chance he had of escape was a traditional ransom by the enemy back to his liege. With an inward sigh he glanced back at his uncle. Even his best hope had little likelihood of success as he pondered the chances of his uncle even considering the idea to parlay with Lady Gwenyth.
His thoughts were interrupted when the escort led them into a large chamber.
Remus was taken aback by the large gathered crowd of armored wildmen and shaman-like figures that converged around a large raised dalis. Tall stone pillars seemed to cage in the crowd while supporting the high domed ceiling. The lighting was far too faint for Remus to make out details of the ceiling above. He wondered briefly if the unseen night sky lay above them as the occasional cold wind blew through the room.
Victor and his uncle pushed him onward. The crowd parted before the three of them. Mostly out of fear and a little bit of respect if Remus was understanding the actions of the people around them.
Once they reached the raised dalis, the Victor raised his hands to call for attention of those gathered. The crowd quieted some, before Victor spoke.
“Gathered believers and faithful devotees to the true gods. We have gathered here to call forth the Avatar of our Faith!”
The Victor spoke without shouting but regardless his voice seemed to carry. The gathered people cheered at his words and he smiled like a kind grandfather. To Remus, the man appeared senile or unsettleing when he smiled, and left him with a feeling of unease.
“We have been persecuted for our conviction and hated for knowing the truth! We had our champion! One that was ordained by blood and gifted with immortality!”
Remus felt a chill creep over him as he watched the crowd that had little to do with the cold temperature of the large room. The Victor held sway over the gathered crowd before them with his words and sermon. His uncle stood off to the side his eyes constantly scanning over the crowd.
Partway through, an armored messenger approached his uncle’s side and spoke quietly in his ear. Remus didn’t make out much of what was said, but he caught words such as, “fast approaching,” “reinforces,” and more then once, “the Uspurper” was mentioned.
His Uncle dismissed the messenger with a few short orders and then followed after the man. Remus’s eye’s trailed after his uncle as he moved through the crowd that parted before him. When he reached the entrance to the chamber he turned his head back and with a stone cold glare he met Remus’s gaze before he disappeared out of sight.
“Tonight we will revive our noble order! We will revive our fallen Master! We will revive the one our enemies call the Dark Lord!”
Remus’s attention snapped back to the Victor that was speaking to the crowd. The smile was gone now the once serene face was now etched with a reverent fury. Remus started to open his mouth to protest the idea of what was being spoken but someone placed a cold blade against his back.
“Your uncle instructed me to ensure you watch and not interrupt,” said a voice in his ear.
“I'm sure my life is worth more to him than yours,” replied Remus.
“Want to take that bet?”
Reluctantly Remus shut his mouth and with frozen apprehension watched the scene unfold before him.
“Bring forth the remains!” commanded Victor.
From the back of the chamber came a procession of gathered devotees. Remus noted that though they appeared travel worn and tired, they were richly dressed in fine garments and robes of dark blue and maroon. They held aloft a crudely shaped casket and a long thin ornament box of dull metal.
When the precession reached the dais the casket was placed in the very center and the box was offered to the Victor on bent knees. Reverently the man took the box and held it aloft before placing it close to the casket. Morbidly Remus found himself fascinated by the ceremonial reverence that was given to the body, and was apprehensive at its contents.
“Here is the body of our true Master,” said the Victor while gently placing a hand on the casket. Remus suddenly hoped desperately for the wooden box to catch fire and burn the entirety of the chamber with it.
“The champions of the vile Goddess had slain the Master and desecrated his body. His head was removed and stuffed. We recovered him and returned him here for his final rest.”
There were shouts of anger from the crowd and the tall man took a moment as he rested his hand upon the casket.
“There are those here with us that have shown their devotion and faithfulness. Some had perished by the hands of those who have chosen to betray their master. Richten, one of the those blessed by the Master’s gift had uncovered and deciphered the ritual to bring back our beloved Master and true ruler of these lands. Though he has perished, his loyal followers have brought this knowledge to us!”
Victor produced a worn book and retreated from the raised dais to pedestal close by. Remus was dragged not all too unwillingly from the dais.
With only the casket and metal box left to occupy the center of the room, Victor opened the book and began to mutter in a language that seemed cold and distant to Remus. The fires around the room started to dim and lose their warmth as Remus unwillingly watched.
“Bring forth the virgins for sacrifice.”
Two young maidens and a boy were forced up onto the dais. All three were bound and each seemed resigned to their fate with the exception of the one of the maidens who looked fearfully at the gathered crowd. They knelt before the casket and behind them stood three members of the former precession with ornate daggers in hand. A fourth individual approached the casket and removed the iron lock that bound it.
Remus couldn’t see the contents within as the lid was lifted open. The virgins were forced to lean over the casket and the most terrified of the three began to weep with tears that ran down her face. An urge to rescue and comfort the poor maiden surged within him and Remus tried to move forward to interfere. To stop this madness.
A couple strong hands stopped him and the blade at his back pushed roughly against him reminding him why he shouldn’t interrupt. Victor continued chanting aloud and was joined by a small choir of devotees. He only stopped briefly enough to offer direction for the ritual and finally came the moment he dreaded when the virgins were brought.
The order came calmly, almost reverently. Three knives flashed and three necks were opened. He wanted to look away but Remus couldn’t as he watched the fear and horror that played about the victims. The crimson blood poured down into the casket in a gush.
A still silence fell across the room that was interrupted only by the desperate death throes of the sacrificed victims. A dark mist crept in from the edges of the room that slowly thickened gradually like a silent stalker. There was a rustle of movement from the center dias and a hand reached out to grab the dying boy with his neck cut open.
The body twitched and then stilled.
“Feed me,” came the command.
Victor gave a quick quiet order and from the edge of the room came the limp unconscious forms of prisoners. Remus felt the stir of violent anger within him as he recognized the men as his own comrades. He shot his eyes to the casket in time to see a figure rise and survey the room.
The Dark Lord was pale and ghastly thin like a skeletal reaper of death. Sunken eyes stared hungrily at the gathered mortals surveyed around him. Long fangs descended from his mouth still glistening with blood that dripped down his chin. He looked sickly and unwell. With unveiled eagerness he grabbed the first offered prisoner and tore open his throat with his teeth to drink greedily.
Remus had watched Gwenyth feed before and was something he had grown used to if still very much put off by it. Watching the Dark Lord however was like watching a monster deprived of anything that resembled humanity. When he finished with the prisoners the Dark Lord still had a hungered look in his eyes as he looked over the room.
When Remus met the the searching hungry eyes he felt a paralyzing fear that left him frozen in place. He couldn’t move like a hunter’s game ensnared by a trap.
“Victor my loyal manservant,” said the Dark Lord. He stepped forward and Victor bowed down to his knee before the undead lord.
“My Liege, my Master,” replied the servant.
“I seemed to have escaped death yet once more, and I have you to thank for it.”
“I live to accomplish your will.”
“I am glad,” the Dark Lord took another look around the chamber, “I don’t recognize this as my castle. Tell me where are we?”
“The mountain temple, my master.”
“I see, what happened to my holdings and lands?”
“Claimed by others, my liege. Your most loyal servants have been scattered by your enemies and your people preyed upon by bandits and thieves.”
“I will see to it that such foolish mortals will pay,” the Dark Lord snarled, “Are these men here loyal?”
“Yes, my master, all have fought to ensure your return.”
The door to the chamber opened and Vendurn strolled in flanked by wild warriors. Remus’s uncle stopped in surprise when he saw the Dark Lord standing in the room and went down on one knee as Victor did.
“Baron Castilio, I am pleased that you are still steadfast and loyal,” welcomed the Dark Lord.
“I live to serve, and I have come to warn the assembly. The enemy has driven out our weaker forces from the encampment and now lay siege to the temple stronghold.”
For the first time since the Dark Lord had risen, Remus felt the faint stirring of hope. A chance at rescue and to perhaps see the Dark Lord defeated by Gwenyth.
“Amusing,” said the Dark Lord as he reached a hand towards the metal box that had lain next to his casket. The box rose into the air by itself and opened. A dark sword rose from within, its color such a deep dark red that Remus almost thought it was black. With a lazy flick of his hand the sword sheathed itself at the the Dark Lord’s hip.
“I find myself eager to taste the blood of my enemies once more.”