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  • Andrew M. Trauger

Prologue to Book Two

Darkness pressed in—all-encompassing, enshrouding, occluding darkness—palpable and oppressive, filling every space, pushing down with the weight of the heavens and the finality of eternity. Darkness that consumed with endless voracity, that drew marrow from bone and soul from body. Darkness everlastingly empty.

The Void.

Between all worlds, between the Seven Realms and the Nine Hells, between life and afterlife was the Void, filling all with its utter emptiness. It stretched through the physical, spanned the diaphanous expanse of dreams, and interconnected each reality of the boundless Creation. It was the Nothing that fastened Everything together, the vacuous framework of all, the immaterial structure upon which everything was built. Travel through the Void was harrowing, disorienting, and fatal. Life in the Void ended quickly with the sudden leeching of breath and evaporation of soul. Only the dead survived.

There was but one living resident of the Void, and it was her everlasting prison. Within an abyssal fold, Vaeroloth festered in eternal torment, a bodiless soul continuously consumed and vomited out by the endless, dark oblivion. Yet she lived. She survived, forever dying but never dead, always living but never alive, her soul reconstituting as rapidly as it discorporated. Endless pain was her lot, everlasting torture her sentence. For her pride she had been banished, for her rebellion she was doomed, the walls of her dungeon stretching forever, intersecting with the worlds she hated but granting access to none.

How long had she been interred? The answer was vanity—a charting of eternity, a multiplication of nothing, a chasing after the wind. Time was meaningless in the Void and measuring it futile. But time was the one thing, however much it was, that Vaeroloth possessed. And she had been busy.

Trace material floated through the Void, constantly swirled about by pandemonic winds. Leftover fragments of Creation drifted along without purpose, forgotten specks of the physical lost in the emptiness of Nothing. O foolish Zaxlinari, Paragon of the Material, founder of dimension and designer of height and breadth! These disparate scraps, inconsequential and worthless to you, found meaning and value in the fertile mind of the Great Dragon.

She captured the first morsel, examining it with scrutinous eye, entertained by its very existence. Where had it come from, and how did it pass through the impenetrable walls of her prison? How curious that this tiny scrap did not vaporize into nothing within the Void. She toyed endlessly with this fragment until another floated by, igniting Vaeroloth’s vile imaginations. There must be a flaw, a crack somewhere in the infinite cage she could exploit. If there was a way in, then there must be a way out.

The first of her creations was hideous and unworkable, disassociating almost as quickly as she formed it, for the destructive power of the Void railed against her life-giving power. With great patience, Vaeroloth tried again. And again. And again…having nothing but time. An insatiable desire to usurp the Maker, to rule in his stead, and to remake Creation in her own image fueled her never-ending search for success. When eons had passed—how could she know what time had transpired—the Great Dragon finally forged a living creature, writhing in pain and wrath at her side. It was the firstborn of many, born of agony and carefully stitched together from Creation’s crumbs.

Its jagged and scaly form screamed of horrors unimaginable, its muted cries the moans of endless pain. Serrated claws scraped at festering wounds weeping with bloody ichor, while seizures wracked the creature’s body and threw it into tortured convulsions. It was a wretched existence. But it was alive, and it resisted the Void’s desire to unmake it.

Vaeroloth had succeeded. She had birthed the jinadaar.

With tireless determination, she toiled to repeat her success. Enough random fragments of Creation tumbled about that she created, through sheer willpower, a dozen children wretched, miserable, and depraved. The Great Dragon searched throughout her abyss, gathering to herself as much of the leftover debris as could be found. But in the immensity of her abyssal prison the leftovers became sparse, and her endless searching produced nothing more. In raging discontent, she sent her children to seek even more material for their brethren. And she waited forever for their return.

Her darkened soul demanded more, an expansion of power even in the dicorporating agony of the Void. Amid relentless reconstruction of mind, Vaeroloth fomented schemes to bring down the Maker. If there were miniscule scraps of Creation floating through her abyssal prison, how much more could be found throughout the interminable Void! How many more jinadaar could be constructed and granted a life immune to its rending forces! With oppressive tyranny, the Great Dragon used the living horrors she created to find the tiniest crack and to exploit the slightest weakness in her prison. She demanded success of her children where she had failed, and she destroyed utterly any who returned without an offering. She craved more, and she would have it.

If only she could escape.

Over countless ages, the children of Vaeroloth scoured every crevasse of their abyssal prison. Each one returned to its mother empty, and each one met a grisly demise. Except one. This one returned with an armload of Creational debris. And a snarling grin. It had uncovered a single weakness in the abyssal walls, a breach in the barricade and perhaps a hint to the origin of its making. For this discovery, Vaeroloth gave the jinadaar a name—Melmorus—the first of its kind, and she made it lord over the others.

Work began immediately on ways to exploit this weakness, but few of her machinations prevailed. At times the hole widened sufficiently that Melmorus could escape, but Vaeroloth herself remained chained. Still, it was a beginning, the hope of her eventual freedom and the subsequent end of the Maker’s reign. All the while, she steadily worked at her creations, crafting stronger and hardier jinadaar with full immunity to the life-rending Void. She fashioned smaller ones to penetrate the fissure more frequently, faster ones sleek and graceful, vibrant ones to imitate light, hulking ones to destroy her enemies. For there would be enemies to slay. And upon her release, there would be rivers of blood.

As measureless time elapsed, her small jinadaar family grew into an army of thousands.And Melmorus remained Lord of the Abyss and commander of armies, standing always at Vaeroloth’s side and in her favor.

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