Andril Tainer woke with a start and found himself slumped over his work table. Next to him in a tall glass cylinder, a spooked and very agitated stirge struck the clear pane and made a noise like a hammer hitting a nail. Andril had been obsessed with the little things ever since he had been shrunk and fed to a flock of them. But that was a long time ago. Or at least it felt like it. He hissed at the little devil, while the little beast simply eyed him coldly. It grew still, it’s wings fluttering gently. Andril knew without the glass, it would seek to plunge it’s needle nose deep into his neck. Yet, if he had loosed it, he could have put any number of beasts between it and he, and the little thing would still seek him out. It was exactly that phenomenon he was attempting to research in another portion of his lab. This one, he liked to keep just as a reminder that the realm was dangerous.
“Aren’t you my little friend?”
Why does it do what it does he would often ask. Why do creatures of the realm do that which they do? Why for example would a stirge, a creature that resembled a mosquito on a minotaur’s diet, who could live entirely off the blood of lesser creatures, wait starving and dying for one of the humans, or elves of the isles to enter it’s cavern? It was well known the little beasts would not chase after other beasts, but instead would starve to death, waiting for a human to feast on. Of course, they could lie in wait for years he knew, but why would it do such a thing when there was plenty of other sources of blood for it to nourish itself with? The question had troubled him for quite some time and so his strange investigations continued. His laboratory smelled more like a butcher’s shop than an alchemist’s because of it.
Prior to his waking, Andril had been having a dream in which a gigantic worm like creature controlled the minds of thousands of residents in a rundown border colony. It took him a few moments of waking to realize, it hadn’t been a dream. He had lived it.
But that too was many years ago. Before he came to Black Hollow. Before he became a lord.
Four years. For four years he had assumed the responsibilities of a governor. He, and the Lord Haryk that is. Deciding together to run their twin harbors here on the island of Three Harbors. Tuatha would run his. The others, those simpletons who had gone off in the middle of the night, towards the drums were no doubt long gone. Four years had passed. There were times when he wondered what became of the others. But Andril was too practical to think about it much. It was an easy calculation that night. Three idiots. Hundreds of undead. Some demon from the darkness of Ket named Umani. Equation complete. Left side equal to the right side and the right side equals death. He figured there may have been another outcome as well. His math said they’d be one of two things before the night was over. Dead, the most likely scenario he reasoned. The other was that they would become one of the undead creatures themselves.
Probably flesh eating ghouls Andril thought. Maybe zombies. If I were an ancient evil madman I’d have gone zombies. Especially with the big lizard.
“My Lord?!!!” A pounding came from his outer chamber door. Andril was about to grab his wand of fireballs, and cursed once he realized it was not an emergency. Just that damned gnome again. He had told that idiot fool of a housekeeper several times not to disturb him this early. Is he really worth a charge of the wand though?
“What is it you contemptible little fool?!” Andril shouted through the door. He had one leg in his trousers. He hissed at himself and dropped the garment. Then he pointed his wand at the door. Maybe he is worth the charge.
“My Lord! I am sorry to disturb you at such an hour! I know what you told me, please m’Lord. The ship. The ship has been found!”
“The ship?” Andril called out and then he remembered. “The ship you say?! The Golden Crane with our return merchandise from the outer isles?”
“The same my lord! It’s been found. Some leagues up the Black River, sir.”
“Intact? It’s cargo?”
The servant spoke through the chamber door, trying to be clear and concise. Andril had a thing for clear speech, and it had taken him only a day to learn that if he wasn’t clear, he was out of a job, or possibly turned into a toad. Andril liked the idea of letting his servants use their imagination. This gnome wasn’t the first housekeeper of the governor’s mansion since the lord Andril came to Black Hollow. Nor was he the second or third. “I am just the messenger m’Lord. I do not have those details for you. I am sorry sir,” he cried through the door. “But, I can…”
“Send for the Lord Haryk. Tell his staff to wake him immediately by order of the Governor of Black Hollow.”
Andril heard the happy sounds of footsteps running off to do his bidding through the door. He lowered his wand. I need to get out more. I’m started to get excited about making gnomes explode. It’s getting bad, people.
He tapped the little glass jar and watched the stirge strike the glass with it’s probiscus, seeking his flesh. His blood. He bent down to stare at the little villain.
“Cha-ching,” he whispered. “Let’s go see about getting paid after all.”