Nisrioch flipped idly through the pages of Kvasir’s Compendium of Wonders, and sighed. In all honesty, he had been on edge of late, his Sight taunted by things just beyond its perception. The worst part was that there was an obvious explanation for this--the dire straits he was in. And yet, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more going on here.
There was a stirring at the entrance of his tent. “Nisrioch,” came his father’s voice. “Come with me.”
Nisrioch considered ignoring the man, but he finally shut the book, and turned towards the entrance. “You have need of me, Dark Lord?”
Shaddad stared calmly at his son. “Would I be here if I did not, Nisrioch?”
Nisrioch took a deep breath and rose. “Very well,” he stated, as he walked towards his father, glaring at him the entire time. “Let us make this brief, if possible.” He frowned. “I suspect neither of us particularly wants to spend much time in each other’s company.”
Shaddad regarded his son for a moment then nodded. “Very well.” The pair headed off.
They walked in silence for a long while. “A lovely night,” Shaddad suddenly announced, breaking it. “I’m surprised you aren’t casting horoscopes.”
“Without my equipment, I’d miss all but the grossest changes,” said Nisrioch. “So there’s really no point in doing it more than once a week.”
Shaddad nodded. “I suppose. A suspicious man would say that you are lying, and that the Sworn have it right--that you have abandoned my cause.”
“And as you are a suspicious man, you say this,” said Nisrioch with a chuckle. He shook his head. “Even if that is true, there’s still the joy of the Art, and curiosity regarding my own fate.” He shut his eyes. “And whatever my opinion of you--we are family.”
Shaddad glanced at his son. “That reminds me,” said Shaddad. “I saw your mother tonight.”
“That does not exactly sound like a forgettable occurrence, Father,” commented Nisrioch.
Shaddad smiled. “It wasn’t. But I have many things on my mind.”
“So how was she?” asked Nisrioch.
“The same as she ever was,” sighed Shaddad. He shook his head. “Time does not wither her, age does not touch her, and the doings of mortals remain nothing more than an amusing pastime, something to pass an idle moment.” He smiled. “Still she came to see me. One last time.”
Nisrioch blinked. “What makes you think this is the last time?”
“Well, for a start, she told me,” laughed Shaddad. “And besides--if this fails--I will most certainly die. If it succeeds, then I shall be her equal--even her better. And whatever her good qualities, your mother does NOT like to be outshone.” He looked at his son. “Tell me, Nisrioch, have you… reconsidered… my old offer?”
“For the last time, father,” said Nisrioch, with a roll of his eyes, “you have an heir. Mansemat is, despite what you may think, a perfectly capable young man. The Things all accept him, as do the Hordes. The same could not be said for me, even if I wanted the position. Which I do not.” He frowned, feeling the bile creep up his throat. Something felt wrong.
Shaddad nodded, as Nisrioch bent over in a sudden wave of nausea. “Yes. Yes. I rather suspected that would be so.” He took a few steps forward and turned to regard his son. “Work the charm,” he declared.
“Demon,” said Estramin de Gaheviez, appearing out of the darkness “we bind thee to this place…”
“Demon,” said Eudropin de Gaheviez, “we hold thee here, by the power of our circle…”
“Demon,” said Dodinas le Savage, “we fix you here, by our skill and might…”
“No… No…” gasped Nisrioch weakly, staring at the now blazing symbols of the circle he had stepped into the middle of. “Father…”
“Demon,” said Perard Malcreature, “we chain you here--by charms old and puissant…”
“Father…” groaned Nisrioch, hand outstretched.
“Demon,” whispered Curselain, “we imprison you here, by the ancient laws…”
“By ash and oak…” said the de Gaheviez brothers.
“By rose and briar…” said Dodinas and Perard.
“FATHER--WHY?” shrieked Nisrioch, falling on the ground in pain.
“By sun and moon,” said Curselain.
“You are bound!” declared the Sworn in unison. Nisrioch screamed and beat futilely at the spectral walls that now surrounded him.
Shaddad watched him try to escape, then nodded. “Why, Nisrioch? Because I have great things planned, and you would get in my way.” He shook his head. “I… All of my children have disappointed me, Nisrioch. I needed an heir--someone to continue my great work. Morgaine and Mansemat were both utterly unsuitable. Only you could have taken up my banner--only you and you refused me.” The Dark Lord’s face grew grim, and his voice became harsh. “And in your defiance, you became as unsuitable as those… misbegotten failures of mine. And so now--as you have all failed me, I am forced to take up this last step myself, and secure the destiny of this House.” He took a deep breath. “Perhaps this is for the best. Perhaps this is simply Mother Night’s way of calling to take what is rightfully mine. But still… betrayal is hard to forgive, and when that BETRAYAL belongs to your own offspring, it is impossible.” Shaddad knelt and looked his son in the eyes. “Believe me--however much pain you are suffering, it is but a FRACTION of what you have caused me.”
Shaddad stood up and turned to the Sworn. “The time is at hand. Estramin--Eudropin… come with me. The rest of you stay here, and keep him bound.” He frowned. “I do not wish my eldest ruining my plans.”