Written by Warren "Azmodi"
Entros, Edited by E.A.Morrissey
Foundations Forged Before Nightfall
A Prelude to: "War Waged at the Stroke of Midnight"
"In dim eclipse disastrous twilight sheds On
half the nations,
and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs."
- John Milton
Note: Foundations Forged Before Nightfall follows the events of The Twilight War Saga.
Raging flames danced to a demented tune, the mind of their master, who sat upon his wicked throne and was pleased. The reek of brimstone was a familiar scent to the Lord of Lies Mephisto, and the comfort of his abode well worn. He smiled with pleasure as he took up a silver goblet from a mutilated servant and gulped its bloody contents down his throat in a single sweeping gesture.
The scarlet-clad beast smiled again, licking the crimson ichor from his thin lips, and hurled the chalice out into the inferno. He leaned back into his twisted chair, formed from the very bodies of his victims, their forms frozen and blackened by ash. Mephisto listened to the delightful tune of the orchestrated screams and guttural rants of those who remained chained in his dreadful domain. Infants wailed for their mothers, widows mourned for their husbands, and fallen deities wept for them all!
The demon basked in it all, for the pain was his pleasure, suffering his boon.
And then an alien scent cut through the venom that permeated his Hades, and Mephisto's eyes narrowed as he sought out this new presence, an intruder in his home. He looked about the roaring, licking fires, cast his gaze on the chained bodies of flayed women, but could not see anything but the familiar.
Yet as the creature's pupil-less orbs perused the smoldering pathway, which led to his monstrous throne, so was the identity of the interloper revealed to him? Clad in night armor, which ended in a collar ringing his dangerously thin neck, a dark blue cape hanging from his small shoulders, the being seemed a strange infant, for that was what he appeared to be. The entity's head was so overlarge about his stem that it seemed he would topple over or be crushed beneath the weight of his own skull, which in itself was veined heavily, those runnels thick with godly ichor. He walked with detached assurance and confidence, despite his own strange appearance and the surroundings he had trespassed in.
Mephisto smiled again, serpent-teeth evident within his maw, and stood to greet this individual. He spread his hands past his sides in welcome, and spoke with a slippery voice, which produced words, which did not always seem to agree with his lips.
"Wylig, it has been millennia." the demoniarch said, nevertheless keeping a watchful eye on this motley being, "What has riled you from your forced slumber? I remember well your imprisonment all those years ago."
Coming to a halt several meters from the master of the realm, no fear or caution in his infantile features, the being spoke to Mephisto as an equal, not a subordinate, "Freedom is mine once again, and freely I stalk the stars. The Tribunal has transgressed boundaries that are not to be crossed, and his self-important violations will no longer be tolerated. And there are . . . other matters afoot, as well, as I am sure you are aware."
Even the demon's eyes widened at these sentiments, a rare occurrence for a creature so practiced in the arts of deception, "You seek to move against the Living Tribunal himself, Wylig? You have been ambitious in the past, yet this is far beyond anything that has been attempted before. Even I would not dare stand against the might of the Judge, doubly so now that he has been further enhanced by the power of the Closed Circle."
"That is none of your concern, Mephisto. When the time comes, my side shall be equipped to nullify any advantage the Tribunal possesses great as it may be. All things in the Omniverse have an opposite, and an equal, demon. The Tribunal's reign must come to an end. He is the root of that which we oppose."
The monster eyed Wylig suspiciously for a moment, and was forced to shake his head, returning to the ghastly throne as he did, "When, and if, you find a force capable of countering the Tribunal, perhaps I will aid you, if I see benefits for myself. But until then I am far from foolish enough to oppose the supreme power in the cosmology." He paused, studying the other entity for a moment, probing for some hint that he could exploit.
Wylig seemed a wall of quiet fortitude.
"Now what has brought you here, Watcher? Surely you did not pay me a visit just for idle conversation. I have never known you to be one for pleasantries."
He inclined his head toward the demon, obviously agreeing with Mephisto's words, "I have come here to find a voice, Mephisto. I require one to speak for an entity that cannot. After some observation of my own, I believe that I have found a such a suitable individual."
"And I am to assume that this being currently resides within my realm of wicked pleasures?"
"Naturally. He is, in fact, a recent addition. Even now I can hear his shrieks, filled with outpourings of rage and hatred for those he believed had abandoned him when he was little more than a babe was. He shall serve as a perfect articulator."
A small smile flickered on Mephisto's lips as he considered Wylig's words, "I believe I am familiar with this creature, yet why should I free such a potent soul merely on your idle wish? What shall I, the Lord of Lies, receive in return?"
Wylig's features remained stolid, neutral, without a hint of expression, as he replied to the crimson demon, "Freedom to do as you please, when the Living Tribunal is vanquished, and his oppression a distant memory."
The devil stroked his angular chin for a few moments, mulling over what the Dark Watcher had proposed. It was not in his usual nature to accept a bargain with such Byzantine, nebulous terms. In the past, Mephisto had been more likely to desire a soul or token of immediate power than an open-ended promise. Yet, save for nearly countless millennia before, he had not chanced to deal with Wylig, and then he had been well repaid. That lone fact happened to severely impact any perceptions he had of the deal.
"Were you nearly anyone else, Wylig, I would laugh in your face and make you burn for even suggesting such a transaction. However, you are who you are, and Mephisto has never been a fool."
With a flick of his slender fingers, the demon summoned up a raging column of flame, which blossomed betwixt the two entities of import. It fluttered in the realm, before slowly shrinking in upon itself, finally resolving into the huddled form of a simple man. Clad in nothing save a torn loincloth, he was a pathetic wretch of creature. He looked about at the two beings, as would a dog that had been beaten far too often, and fear bloomed in his miss-matched eyes as he looked at the Lord of Lies.
A whimper sounded from the man's lips and he cringed away at the sight of Mephisto, drawing another dreadful smile from the lord of the place. Yet, despite his decrepit and wizened condition, his skin shining a light pink and blistered from the heat, the hair upon his head reduced to little more then occasional singed tufts, still could one discern a small bit of eminence within the man. His body was coiled thick with muscle, and even his furtive moments betrayed the power he had once used blatantly. His left eye glowed golden and Wylig saw through that mirror, gazing at the beast within.
"Are you certain this is who you desire?" Mephisto questioned, his words probing blades, "The pleasures of my realm have reduced this man to a pile of rubbish, a mongrel clad in flesh. He is no longer the regal being he was in life."
"He shall be re-forged in the image of his new master." Wylig replied without hesitation, his voice still unreadable, "You have burnt away the wasteful pride and luxury he once possessed, and now all he has is hate, rage, and pain. I shall fan those flames and when he emerges from the crucible, he shall be hard as black iron, the perfect Voice."
The devil sensed the capital letter, saw that the twisted Watcher was quite intent upon transmuting that broken husk of a man into a formidable force, for the cause and entity he now served, "Take him then, Wylig. The loss of one broken soul shall not duly impact the state of my realm. Where I lose one, hundreds fall to take his place."
"I thank you for your contribution, Mephisto. Your role in things shall not be forgotten. When the time comes, you shall be duly rewarded."
With a simple nod and flick of his wrist, the renegade observer was gone from the cauldron of torment; his protege too disappeared with him. The demon studied the space the two had occupied but moments before and stroked his jaw once again, considering the future.
Continued in Chapter 1
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