Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
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
Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
The last thing the Hero recalled was defeating a demon in Fricana and being greeted by the sight of his friends who helped him.
Then he felt himself magically drawn across dimensions to an eerie and dark cave that felt nasty. It didn’t take a Paladin’s sense evil to know that this was a very bad place to be. After a long while of exploring this weird place and avoiding unpleasant ways of dying, the hero finally made his way outside.
The outside of the cave wasn’t much more pleasant than the inside. It was cold and foggy. There was a sense of looming danger to this area. The hero got the distinct impression that he was not in Kansas anymore.
Then a young woman walked out of the shadows toward him. She welcomed him to Mordavia. She seemed surprised and almost relieved to find the hero here.
She called herself Katrina.
Before the hero could ask her, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?,” she headed back into the forest and was lost in the mists. The hero might suspect that this sweet young thing was more than she seemed, but for the moment he was confused, bemused, and a bit amused by her. He could only hope that he would get to meet her again sometime.
Out of the Darkness
Katrina was indeed surprised and relieved to see the hero alive. She hated it when a magical spell went awry. Her magic had summoned the hero to Mordavia where the hero was supposed to arrive in the Borgov castle. Instead, the power of the Dark One’s cave interfered.
The hero was either very lucky or very skilled to come out of that cave alive.
Either way, Katrina knew that the hero would be very useful to her.
For once, Ad Avis had given her good advice when he suggested that she summon his murderer here. This was not a matter of petty vengeance. This would have world-altering consequences.
And the hero seemed just gullible enough to do the job for which Katrina brought him here..
A Shadowy Past
Katrina grew up in the city of Slava in the kingdom of Vakia. She was the daughter of a Knight’s mistress. Katrina grew up on the edge of poverty, never knowing if her father would continue to support her and her mother from month to month. She hated to see fear on her mother’s face when the knight did not show up to pay her bills.
However, when the knight did visit, Katrina soon realized that her father was as charmed by Katrina as he was by her mother. Katrina learned how to wrap him around her finger with just a smile, a hug, and “I love you, Daddy.” Her father wasn’t the only one. All the older men in the neighborhood enjoyed her friendly smile and cheerful greetings. Sometimes, the old men would give her an apple to share with her mother.
For Katrina learned from her mother – You do whatever it takes to keep from being helpless and hungry.
When Katrina was thirteen, her mother became ill. The knight had not been to see them in months and there was very little money left for food. Their landlord was threatening to evict them for back rent. Katrina cared for her sick mother, but there was no money to buy her medicine. There was nothing Katrina could do to save her mother. She could only watch her mother die.
Then Katrina wiped the tears from her face. She brushed her hair and put on her mother’s best dress. She kissed her mother’s cheek, put two of her remaining coins on her mother’s eyes to pay for the ferryman, and then Katrina walked away, never to return.
You do whatever it takes…
The Wizardess of WIT
Katrina had a series of ‘boyfriends.’ These were older men who were thrilled to have a sweet young thing to flirt and cuddle with. One of these older men was a Wizard. He was surprised when Katrina showed an interest in his magic. He was even more surprised that she had a talent for magic. Soon, she learned all that he could teach her.
Katrina saw magic as a means of taking control of her own life. No longer would she be dependent upon others for food and shelter. She had the power to take charge of her life. She would never be helpless or hungry again – or so she hoped.
When she applied for the Wizard’s Institute for Technocery, the Wizard Council did their best to discourage her. They set the hardest of tests before her. They explained that Wizard magic was a man’s skill. She should go off to learn how to be a healer. Healing was woman’s magic.
(Yes, Erana had been there before, but she wasn’t quite human. Nor was Erana a seductive young woman who seemed determined to have her own way.)
Katrina did not let the old fools in the council keep her from the chance to learn more magic. She excelled in her classes. Most Wizards and TA’s were delighted to have someone lovely in their classrooms who actually listened to their lectures and learned their lessons. It was a novel experience for them.
Katrina spent her nights in the library learning about magic that the Wizards didn’t teach at WIT. There were some spells that were considered too dark, dangerous and unpredictable for sensible Wizards to ever learn. Katrina believed that magic was neither dark nor light. It was all a matter of how the magic was used.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Then came a demonic invasion of Russ caused by an unfortunate former graduate of WIT. To avoid the bad publicity towards Wizards and the institute, the Council sent graduate students to deal with the demons.
Unfortunately, these demons had the ability to possess Wizards. The situation was getting steadily worse.
Katrina offered to go and stop the demons. She had studied the old books and even older spells. She wanted a chance to prove that she was a true Wizard.
The council had a long conference about sending her. On one hand, it seemed wrong to send a woman to do a Wizard’s job. On the other hand, it would get rid of this troublemaker. There were far too many besotted Wizards at the Institute with her around. Besides, she was making the other students jealous because she was the teachers’ pet and got good grades just by blinking her eyelashes. Or so they assumed; it did not occur to most students that one could actually succeed by studying and practicing magic.
So the Council decided to send Katrina off to deal with the demons. It never occurred to them that she might succeed.
However, succeed Katrina did. Using a variation of the ‘Thermonuclear Blast’ spell (one that did not involve suicide as a major component of the spell), she destroyed the demons and the portal. She also disintegrated all of the possessed Wizards and grad students. She felt this was a fair trade-off. They knew the job was difficult when they took it.
Horrified that Katrina had accomplished what much greater Wizards could not do, and that she used ‘forbidden’ magic to do so, the Wizard Council banished her from the Institute.
Katrina was furious that WIT wouldn’t even acknowledge that she had just saved a land and WIT’s precious reputation. However, it didn’t really matter. She had learned about as much as she wanted to from the Institute. It was time to find a new, more powerful teacher.
So Katrina went off to seek the legendary Dark Master.
The Dark Master was a former Wizard at the Institute many decades before Katrina’s time. He had the reputation of being very learned and powerful. It was rumored that he had found the secret of agelessness.
Katrina thought it would be easy to become apprentice to an elderly old gentleman. She had charmed every other teacher and would do the same to him.
What she did not know was that the Dark Master was no gentleman. Nor was he alive. He had managed to conceal the fact that he was a Vampire from all of the Wizards. He had no need for an apprentice.
But he did have a need for a Vampire slave.
The Dark Master delighted in the cruelty of turning Katrina into a Vampire and forcing her to do his bidding.
Katrina hated him and hated being helpless to disobey him. She hated the fact that she had to return to her grave before dawn. She hated the fact that she was totally defenseless in the light of day. Being a Vampire sucked.
Katrina was a servant of the Dark Master for many years until, one night, she seduced a naïve young man. She easily convinced him to stake her evil Vampire master, something Katrina could not do herself. Pity that the hero perished in the process…
Katrina became the new Dark Master.
For all her magic and power, Katrina still had to fear the dawn. She feared that one day some fool would find her coffin during the day and destroy her while she was helpless.
There had to be some way to stop the day from dawning. There had to be some way to end this helplessness.
You do whatever it takes. If there are consequences – and there always are – you deal with them later.
Katrina’s story is a bit more complex than Erana’s. In the next article of this series, we’ll see the Dark Master in action.