Heroic measures

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

 

Warlord Nil Maelstrom, Warlord of the Dead and Guardian of Realms Unseen was currently in his throne room watching TV. Currently the Dread Lord was watching afternoon soaps, half sprawled on his throne. He was currently taking a break from recruitment, reflecting on how hard it was to get decent soldiers.

Things had been easier in his predecessor’s day, back then power wasn’t something that came from masses of other people. Back then, power came from within. You had to be tough. You had to be self-reliant.  Back then everything and everyone was out to kill you.

Now with only seven members left, the everys were succeeding.

Recruiting for the Dahk was tough. To Nil it was just another form of police work; except these days the living didn’t want it, and the dead never could have it. It took a very strange mind to accept the conversion from human to darkness. Most of humanity today didn’t have the ability to withstand the rippling torment that came from turning their soul into eternal dark. It was also quite irreversible, and warriors who took the dark path we’re not to be allowed to cross into the afterworld when they were slain. The fear of them turning around and walking back out was quite real.

Nil would sometimes wonder why he had elected to join. Then he remembered the night he drew his brand-new recoil-less spirit gun and put an end to “Machine Gun” Mickey O’ Keene in that dark Chicago alley back in 1928. He thought about that sometimes. Honestly every time he wondered why he had elected to take the dark walk, he remembered that and remained at his post. Some dogs you would do anything to put down.

Which brought him to the Noxittes.  They were breeding more and more. Just a low power offshoot of one of the primary clans, but what they lacked in firepower they made up in spawning. They had made a decent job taking out his forces after the Dahk/Phoen war. He needed a plan. He had almost limitless resources, but very few troops to use them.

Nil’s thoughts froze as he stared at the television screen.

“What the hell?” he roared as he leaped from his position, half reclined across his throne, and raced to the screen, almost breaking it in his haste. By the time he got there it was gone. He rummaged for the remote, but it wasn’t set for d.v.r.  What it had shown was now gone forever. He could wait for it to cycle back around if it was going to. It was only afternoon soaps; they might show it again. Nil stared at the TV screen in anger, daring it to come back on. By then commercial it has shown was gone, a fleeting glimpse of something not of this world.

Nil Maelstrom had not survived this long as a death clan warrior without a firm understanding of the tidal forces that rocked humanity. He had to. He was one of them. One of the biggest realizations was that humanity had a series of self-checks on itself. While the news only showed what the news wanted you to see, and TV programs wet themselves in eagerness to entertain the masses, it was commercials… commercials were the true litmus test of society. It couldn’t be anything else but a cry from the subconscious, or the products didn’t sell, and the company collapsed.

If what Nil had seen was true, the end of everyone was coming.

He dropped into a seated position before the screen and pondered what could be done.

The Dahk were useless in their current form. Seven warriors could never stop the evil that was creeping around the edge of humanity’s vision. hundreds might fail as well. There was only one Phoen left, and while Chimera was his son, he doubted the boy would come out of his observatory to help solve this problem. While he was leaving the clan, he had been made quite clear that he wouldn’t return. His other son Jott couldn’t be trusted with something as big as the saving of humanity. Even though he was a committed and obedient lad, Jott was more likely to kill humanity to save it from the very thing that was attempting to end it. There was also the fact that Phoen and Dahk had hated each other so much and for so long it had transmuted into a long running inherited murderous rage. Jott and Chim. Dahk and Phoen… conditioned to kill each other on sight by the very power they wielded.

There were few Nil could trust in the Nox, and the Noxittes were unchecked. That left one clan left, and he had absolutely no way to bring them in. Current reports had them just as dangerous as the Noxittes lately, but if he could catch one early in the cycle of rebirth…

“Claymore!!” Nil bellowed. He didn’t bother to look around. What was the good of owning a castle bordering the edge of the Elysian Oceans if he had to do all his own work? He had ghosts that cooked, and ghosts that cleaned, and he also had one Dahk retainer that he could absolutely guarantee had his back. The one who gave him the option to live and fight, after he was about to die at the hands of the Irish Mafia. Claymore had proclaimed Nil as his liege and helped him take down the previous Warlord. One night while drinking Nil had made the mistake of asking him why.

The giant, dark skinned, fur wearing killer had smiled with a half-moon that split the night of his scar covered face and said, “Because it’s your head on the block, my brother.”

Claymore stood quietly, looking harder and rougher than the masonry behind him. His huge namesake sword hanging from at ease on his back. He could wait for days without looking bored. Whatever he had been when he was originally human, he exhibited a lifetime’s worth of military training.

“You have need of me my liege?”

Nil nodded.

“I need for you to find me a Hero.”

To his credit Claymore only had one question.

“Dead or alive?”

 

 

By Jim Dyar