Jundag: Prelude

The mediator of Xerro Kensho gazed up into The Void.

As always, the view awed her: a sky blacker than the deepest cavern, more impenetrable than a wall of the hardest granite. A sky that reflected the emotions in her heart. A sky that would allow the Dark Five—Pergamon, Seth, Xakra, Mortas, and Phekkar—to reign supreme in all their terrible glory.

Dropping her gaze, she stared out from the balcony on which she stood, through the clear, chill air to the faint glimmer of the shield that surrounded and protected the citadel. She caught her breath as a huge shape loomed beyond the shield, great leathery wings billowing. It spewed forth flames, but they splashed harmlessly against the citadel’s protective barrier. The draconic residents of Pytt resented the intrusion represented by the citadel, but she cared not. She dismissed the impotent display and drank in the majesty of the view, dreaming of a dark future.

A cruel smile drew the mediator’s lips apart and her tongue darted out to run over her even, white teeth; she could nearly taste their victory. This sky—The Void—was to be the salvation of her people. For so long they had been shunned like vermin, forced to dwell in the confines of the deep caverns of the world while the surface dwellers luxuriated in more space than they could ever hope to occupy. But in a few short weeks that would change. With the power of The Void, they would purge the surface world, clearing it for conquest. The plan had been hundreds of years in the making, and she would see its culmination. She closed her eyes as she praised the gods who had granted her this opportunity.

“Mediator Koyrull.”

The grating voice shattered the mediator’s reverie, stiffening her shoulders with tense distaste, erasing her smile, leaving upon her features only the cruelty that was the core of her being. She turned slowly toward the master of the voice, Ngeryl, Mediator of Toff Zyr, another of the Dark Gods’ greatest cities.

“We are ready to continue, Mediator Koyrull, if you would deign to lend us your attention.”

It was neither Ngeryl’s snide manner nor his condescending tone that grated on her nerves. What irritated Koyrull was the sound of her proper name. Part of becoming a mediator was, after all, the severing of all personal ties to name and clan. After passing the rites of ascension, a mediator was known only as “Mediator”, a title that commanded respect and fear. The use of her name brought back memories of impotence and subservience that stoked the fires of her rage.

Koyrull bit back a retort as she returned to the room, glancing at the other occupants. Unspeakable power smoldered behind the six pairs of eyes that met her scrutiny, power even to rival her own, for here sat the rulers of the cities that were participating in this project with Xerro Kensho. Mediators all, they were her peers and, as such, merited a certain level of tolerance. They had all agreed to the use of personal names to avoid the confusion of a conversation between seven mediators, and although no truce could stay Koyrull’s rage at being addressed by a name she had not used in nearly two centuries, she knew it was the will of the Dark Five that they cooperate.

“Have all the progress reports finally been submitted, Ngeryl?” Koyrull asked, allowing herself a bit of verbal sparring. It was the fault of this presumptuous twit that the meeting was delayed in the first place! How dare he take me to task, she seethed inwardly.

“As I said they would be, Koyrull,” the delinquent mediator fumed back, his black, serrated armor rustling like metallic leaves on the wind with his every movement.

“Excellent,” Koyrull said. Like a true authoritarian, she shook off her murderous thoughts and returned her concentration to the problem at hand. “Now that we are ready, I would like to propose that each city donate one hundred slaves to the efforts of Trokk Nour and Zerrokesh. Their progress has fallen well behind and must be brought up to pace.”

“The delay is no fault of mine!” the mediator of Zerrokesh snapped as he surged to his feet in anger, his dark, nomadic features clouding dangerously. El-Jumm had only recently passed the rites of ascension, and was yet untempered. “We lost a hundred seventy of our best slaves during the last flux in the shield!”

“It was not my intent to assess blame for the drop in performance, El-Juum,” Koyrull explained as she returned to the septagonal table strewn with plans and papers. “I was merely trying to rectify the setback. Additional slave laborers will be brought in as soon as the present instability in the portal is repaired. Once progress in all seven sectors is comparable, the loaned labor will be returned. If there is no opposition to this plan, I would like to see it put into effect immediately.”

Silence reigned around the table.

“Excellent!” she grinned genuinely, her teeth glowing white between her thin lips. “Now, please continue with the reports.”

As the tedious and long-winded presentations of the progress on the citadel resumed, Koyrull found her mind wandering back to the thrilling view that still raged outside.

Soon, almighty Dark Ones, she thought victoriously, very soon indeed

Jundag: Chapter One