In which we follow our heroine Katrina’s rise to power, her journey to Mordavia, and learn how she falls in love for the very first time.
It’s not easy being a Dark Master.
It requires a delicate balance. If you piss off the neighboring rulers, they declare war on you. Terrorize the locals too much? They call for a Hero to take you out. Not oppressive or scary enough? The peasants revolt and slaughter your monsters. Don’t get too soft, or they start calling you “Nice Master” and expect you to be the Godparent to their kids. Like I said, it’s delicate.
The old Dark Master was nasty, but he had strong self-preservation instincts and good PR. He was rumored to be a mysterious Wizard of the “subtle and quick to anger” variety. Although he was a Vampire, The Dark Master never lunched on the locals. He fed only upon travelling merchant caravans. He called them his “Meals on Wheels.”
Despite all that care, Katrina managed to lure a Hero into slaying her Master. With the Dark Master gone, Katrina simply took over his place, title, and reputation.
Then one day, a brash young Wizard who called himself Ad Avis came to call upon the Dark Master. Katrina met him, but Ad Avis insisted that he was a great Wizard and had no interest in dealing with maidservants or mistresses.
Needless to say, Katrina was not impressed with Ad Avis. For a “great Wizard,” his powers of observation were lacking, and his manners were worse. So after teaching Ad Avis a valuable lesson that gurrls can be Wizards, too (by trashing him in a magical battle), Katrina bound Ad Avis to her will with her Vampiric Charm. Ad Avis would either be useful to her as a servant, or he would pay for his arrogance the next time Katrina needed a meal.
As it turned out, Ad Avis actually had some useful knowledge about summoning demons. Katrina had read about a Dark One called Avoozl, who had the power to shroud the lands with eternal night. If Katrina could summon and control Avoozl, then she would never fear daylight again.
Even as a servant, Ad Avis was arrogant and annoying. He despised women in general and Katrina in particular. He treated Katrina’s servants like they were, well, monsters. Although he was always subserviently polite to Katrina when she was around him, she knew that Ad Avis would love to drive a stake through her heart.
Unfortunately for Ad Avis, destroying Katrina would also destroy the vampiric bonds he shared with her. As a Vampire’s personal servant, he did not age and he had the same ability to charm mortals as a Vampire had. So while Ad Avis hated Katrina, he loved power too much to give in to his resentment and fury towards her.
Eventually, Katrina soon grew tired of Ad Avis’s snide superiority and sarcasm and sent him back to his homeland of Raseir. Good riddance!
Moving to Mordavia
Continuing her research, Katrina learned of the land of Mordavia. The Dark One’s cult had come very close to unleashing Avoozl upon the world. So she brought her monstrous servants to Mordavia and took over the abandoned Borgov Castle.
From the Borgov library, Katrina read about the Cult of Avoozl and the role that Erana had played in banishing the Dark One from the land.
Mordavia was a haunted land, marked by death and dark rituals. The villagers were mostly frightened fools huddled in their walled town. Some sort of spell emanating from Erana’s staff protected the town. To her annoyance, Katrina couldn’t even enter it. She had to use her crystal ball to spy on the town.
One day, she saw a lonely child named Tanya playing in the garden that grew around Erana’s staff. The child was singing a lullaby to a faded ragdoll. Katrina watched as Tanya cradled the ragdoll and said plaintively, “I wish we had a friend.” Something about the child’s innocence touched Katrina’s heart.
She sent one of her servants to a distant city to bring back a fine china doll. Then she ordered Toby, her most trusted monster, to hide the doll in the garden for Tanya to find.
Toby was monstrous, but he was not evil, so Erana’s spell did not affect him. He easily climbed the town wall and hid the doll. While Katrina slept in her coffin, Toby waited in the gate tower to see what would happen.
When Tanya found the doll, she was delighted. She had never seen anything as beautiful as this doll before. Tanya danced merrily with the doll, and even Toby smiled to see Tanya so happy. For days and nights, Toby and Katrina watched Tanya’s joyful fun with the doll.
Then Tanya’s mother saw Tanya playing with this strange doll. Bella took the doll away from Tanya. Bella was afraid that the doll was magical and dangerous since it had clearly enchanted Tanya. Even though Tanya begged for the doll, her mother kept it hidden.
Bella made Tanya stay in the inn so that Tanya would be safe. Tanya cried to herself as she looked out the open window at the garden where she loved to play.
Toby felt sorry for Tanya and tried to comfort her. He climbed up to the roof and sang her a growling lullaby through the window. When Tanya saw Toby, she wasn’t afraid of the big, hairy monster who smiled back at her. She somehow knew that he was the one who had given her the doll. She knew that he was the friend she had wished for at Erana’s Staff.
Leave No Child Behind
When Katrina found out that Tanya’s mother had taken the doll, she was angry. Katrina was even angrier at the idea that Tanya could no longer go outside to play in the sunshine. Tanya’s cruel mother did not deserve such a lovely daughter. If Katrina had a daughter like Tanya, she would give her child all the toys and gifts in the world just to make her smile.
Then Katrina got an idea. Tanya was a lonely prisoner, locked away from the daylight just as Katrina was. Katrina could make Tanya happy again. Tanya would become Katrina’s darling daughter and never have to be afraid again.
So Katrina had Toby “rescue” Tanya from the inn. Katrina had a way to make sure that Tanya would never have to fear the dark or bad things again. Katrina made Tanya her very own Vampire daughter. Together they could be happy forever, afraid of nothing but sunlight.
Katrina had an answer to that too. All she needed was to summon and control Avoozl. Once eternal darkness came to Mordavia, Katrina and Tanya could go anywhere any time of the day or night.
Of course, there was a slight complication in the form of Ad Avis, who was only mostly gone. Katrina had sent him to Raseir and thought she had seen the last of him. That suited Ad Avis as well.
Living on the Raseir’s Edge
For a while, everything in Raseir went as planned. Ad Avis had taken over the city. He brought law and order to the land and put women in their place – harems. He had all the information he needed to bind the Djinn Iblis to his command.
All Ad Avis needed now was someone gullible enough to enter the Forbidden City and retrieve the statue of Iblis. Sure enough, a hero arrived right on schedule. He made it through the Forbidden City as the prophecy had foretold. Ad Avis took the statue and left the hero trapped in the ruined city.
But Ad Avis underestimated his victim. Not only did the hero escape, but he interrupted the summoning ritual for Iblis. Ad Avis was furious. All those years of being Katrina’s slave, all those years of research, all his plans for world domination destroyed by one stupid hero.
Oh, and it got worse when the hero defeated Ad Avis and sent him falling to his doom from the tower of Raseir. It’s a sad day when you can’t even trust a hero to stay in the ancient ruins and die.
With his dying breath, Ad Avis called out to Katrina through the magical bonds of Vampire and servant. She had no choice but to summon him to her side and return him from his death as a fully-fledged Vampire. Oh well, maybe he could help out with the ritual of summoning Avoozl.
Except that he couldn’t. The final secrets of the ritual were hidden in the old monastery in town. As Vampires, they couldn’t get past Erana’s spell to reach the monastery. They were also barred from the Dark One’s Cave. They needed some gullible fool who would do those things for them..
Ad Avis knew exactly who to use…
(To Be Continued)
Illustration by Pam Thien
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