The Shadow Embraced
Zhill stood after time beyond measure had passed, more drawn by internal guiding than an act of his own will. Proceeding into one of the shambled buildings, he found others that looked as he supposed he did: skin that had seemingly been bleached white for many years, but without the telltale indicators of age such as wrinkles or skin spots. Bone was visible on many, whether it was an appendage no longer covered by skin or an odd protrusion elsewhere on the body. Yet all shared the same black lifeless eyes.
Though one stood at the end of this abandoned hall serving as some sort of guide or overseer and speaking words to him, they did not penetrate the tangled cluster of his thoughts. As his body turned to set out on its new course to fulfill these new orders, his mind continued to wander, clinging desperately to the fading echo of he felt must be his previous life.
He had been someone else. He was sure of it. He could almost summon images from his weakening memory before his mind’s eye. But they remained just out of reach. As he continued walking towards a cave entrance, the thoughts faded further and further away while the bond that held his soul strengthened its grip. Within moments he could not even remember what he had been trying to remember, and instead focused on the shiny black objects moving in the distance.
Spiders, something within reminded him. A nest had been established in proximity to the desolate village the Forsaken had claimed for their own. They stood as a representation of an obstacle to progress and had to be eliminated. Creeping silently towards the cave entrance and the insects that were nearly half as large as himself, Zhill was indeterably focused. Stepping out from a thin wedge of shadow to their flank, Zhill took advantage of the element of surprise.
Instantly one of them had fallen and was writhing violently on the ground, two of its legs lazily spewing thick black blood into the lifeless soil. Zhill flashed the old dagger he had again, and sliced the gut of the creature wide open. The other spider had hesitated, moving in a lateral motion in response to this new threat. It had intended to circle around this predator, but instead the movement was perfectly anticipated. A feinting strike from the blade caused the spider to step quickly in the opposite direction as Zhill had expected. Moving deftly, he stepped behind the rounded body of the creature and drove his dagger deep into its back, the point protruding out of its belly. Though the spider tried to free itself as it emitted a screeching, high pitched wail, it was useless because the blade had stuck in the ground pinning it there.
Removing the blade without a thought of cleaning it, Zhill left the beast to die alone as its blood stained the ground in a wide dark circle. Stepping into the complete darkness of the cave he felt a burning in his soul. If one yet remained within him. Death had brought to him new life, and the raging fire now surged up from some dark place as he announced himself to the world: “I am Zhill! I am the Shadow of Death!”
Zhill sat motionlessly at the thick trunk of a shrubbery listening to their conversation. Humans. Their stench would be unbearable if it were not for the sweet nectar that pumped through their veins. They were a plague on the land and worthy of nothing more than serving as food for the Forsaken. Having been told of a group that had recently attempted to breach their territory, Zhill had come to turn the tide.
Though his memory was gone, he had been able to retain a single glimmer. A spark of something that was altogether not as he was now. And he thrust that ember deep into his being, wary that some magic might try to unloose it. Because he could no longer understand it, and to give no thought that he was not the same as other Forsaken, he embraced this new body and its purpose with a sickened delight. Even when spiders, wolves, and other creatures formed with distorted bodies by some wicked magic, had assaulted him, he had been unstoppable. There was never a sensation of pain to hold him back and his rage had allowed him to push beyond others of his kind often.
Even death could not restrict him. When a small band of animated skeletons had severed his limbs and beat him to the ground, this new life had not failed him. Though it occurred slowly, his body had mended itself and, in time, he had his vengeance. Now he sat glaring at these pitiful creatures he swore would fall at his hand.
The humans were not like other creatures. They were too given to fear. The few that he had already slain had died with faces petrified in horror. He had only taken them one at a time, but he knew that they could not provide an adequate challenge due to the weakness of their own timidity. This encounter would be brief.
As Zhill closed in, he could hear them speaking in hushed tones that betrayed them. He did not need to be within arm’s reach to tell that the cloak of night that had enveloped them had put them on edge, imagining horrible creatures waiting in the dark to take them. Yet he was close; close enough to warm himself by the same fire they had made, though they remained oblivious to his presence. Moving into position, he let his festering rage bubble to the surface as he whispered, “Death takes you.”
Before the closest man could react, Zhill had deeply slashed his eyes and retreated back into shadow. The man blindly groped at his face in pain as his two companions stood immobilized in fear. Almost invisibly, he struck the next in the throat, sending a full spray of blood over the small fire where it boiled with a loud hiss. It was then, as two lay on the ground defeated, that Zhill stepped into the light of the fire to face the third man. He stood holding a drawn sword which quivered in the air as he proceeded to urinate on himself uncontrollably.
“You can not out run your shadow,” Zhill said softly with dreadful malice. The man instantly dropped his weapon and fled, but the darkness could not save him. Quickly drawing his arm back, Zhill flung his dagger with deadly accuracy, not waiting to watch it land with a dull thunk as it deeply penetrated the man’s skull.
Drawing his other dagger, he thrust it into an eye socket of his first victim, silencing his cries for help. Searching the two at the fire yielded a note that he found very interesting. It spoke of a fortress nearby which commanded these human forces. One of their champions had lead a band of them into Forsaken territory to “purge the ill stain.” Zhill knew, as he retrieved both of his knives, that this information would be rewarded by those that had sent him. Sprinting off into the moonless night, Zhill found himself strangely without any sense of delight at the thought of fulfilling his orders with such success. The only sensation that lingered in his dark soul was the thirst for Death.