Prologue to the Story to be Named Later, XII and Final
A lifelong study of contagion and disease had germinated the idea. If the ravenous unsleeping guardians could somehow spread their condition to their victims, then Troius would have the unstoppable army he needed to bend the world to his will. An army that didn’t need supply wagons or camp followers, that found their provender when they met their enemies, that grew with every enemy that fell – this was the tide that would sweep the empires and petty kingdoms of the world under his control. The mighty would grovel on their knees before him for protection against the Army of Troius. He finally achieved success, shortly after earning the trust of El Sof’s king and the hand of his daughter, keeping his work from the prying eyes of the king’s pet sorcerers. At least, until the experiment required its first test subjects.
After his success, the wizard had destroyed the infected he created, unwilling to reveal them to the world until he was truly ready. Study was needed, assessments of their weaknesses and strengths and the like before unleashing a horde of walking death. Troius had relocated himself to this remote tower, a base where he could continue his research and execute his revenge. The main body of resistance to his plans for domination, he felt, were his erstwhile companions and colleagues. Finding them all would take years.
Troius surveyed their ruined faces in triumph before swaggering into the chamber. For all their desire to reach and rend him, the clustered ruin of once-humanity parted before him like reeds, not one able to so much as touch a hanging fringe of his robe. He stumped heavily across the floor past them, heading towards the door in the rear of the chamber. Fitting that the fools that had once cast him from their company would stand an eternal vigil over his most valuable possessions. The stone portal moved aside at his gesture and Troius stepped inside impatiently.
The wizard waved a hand behind himself negligibly to seal the door behind him, the grinding of its passage unnoticed by his ears. All of his focus was on one item in the small room full of strange and wonderful artifacts. The crystal prism hung suspended in its cage of gold and silver wire, humming with its contained power. This chamber was sealed and attuned to its use, and the only place Troius felt comfortable enough to relax his power. He dropped the wards and enchantments that normally coated his body like invisible armor reluctantly, but he needed every ounce of power at his disposal to pierce the veil guarding the last remaining threat to his inevitable march to glory. There was only one face he missed as he’d surveyed the beginning elements of his impending juggernaut. Merrus, the old bastard, had eluded every effort to locate him, but Troius knew that it was but a matter of time before his tenacity and the Sho’etan Crystal found him.
There was another face that Troius did not see while he had stood at the entrance to the chamber, although he expected it to be there. Nor did the mad wizard, intent on his goal and unfound adversary, notice the figure standing in the shadowy corner near the door to his innermost sanctum. The grating of the stone sliding back into position had masked the sound of bare feet slapping softly on the stone behind him. Indeed, Troius was unmindful of the presence of Nicoreus at all. It was only when jagged teeth sank into the obese wizard’s thick neck, and iron claws sank into the flab of his upper arms, that Troius realized that he wasn’t alone after all.