Mansemat Cthonique rushed through the dark tunnels, a vague sensation pulling him forward. He had to hurry, he knew. His father was planning something horrible, and it was up to him to stop him. Morgaine was in trouble. She was counting on him. He had to save her.
He thought he saw a light up ahead. That would be his father. Mansemat strained forward, running with all his strength. He entered a massive chamber, with a great vaulted ceiling. Shaddad stood at the far end, before an altar, on which he’d laid Morgaine, a knife in his hands. “Lord--Lord Shaddad Cthonique,” gasped Mansemat, trying to remember the words. “I judge and condemn you… By the power of House Cthonique, I judge and condemn you for… betraying the duties of our house, as given to us by Sacred, Unholy Mother Night. I… I cast you out of our House… I strip you of position… of rank and position…”
Shaddad turned, and chuckled to himself. “Mansemat? Is that you?” His father threw his head back and laughed. “My goodness. Trying to be Lord Apsu now, are we?” Shaddad snorted, as he cleaned his knife. “Pathetic as usual. Though I will admit, I am somewhat surprised you survived. Still that was likely luck more than anything else…” He glanced at his son. “Well? Don’t you have any more grand heroic statements to utter? You’ve gone silent all at…” Shaddad peered closely for a second and then turned to Morgaine. “Oh, yes. I see that has gotten your attention.”
Morgaine’s eyes were wide, empty and dead. A large hole had been crudely cut in her chest, while her heart was placed beside her. “I imagine you are upset about this,” said Shaddad calmly. “I will not say I am happy about it--but it had to be done. For the good of House Cthonique.”
Mansemat gulped, then drew Murgleys. “Lord Shaddad Cthonique, by the power of House Cthonique I judge and condemn you for betraying the duties of our House, as given to us by Sacred, Unholy Mother Night,” he said quietly. “I cast you out of our House, I strip you of rank and position. Depart from our halls. You are no longer welcome there. You are a Dark Lord no longer.”
Shaddad shook his head. “More of this folly, Mansemat? Do you honestly imagine that this time will end any differently from the hundred other times you’ve tried to defy me? You, laid low on the ground before me, begging for mercy…”
“Depart from our halls. You are no longer welcome there. You are a Dark Lord no longer!” shouted Mansemat.
“Trying to be a hero, son?” sneered Shaddad, as he stepped forward. “You really are a child, you know that? Those warriors of chivalry you talk about are nothing but foppish princes, mercenaries, and the occasional bandit with pretensions. They are a sad dream, for those unable to face reality. And I… I am the reality.”
“You are a Dark Lord no longer!” hissed Mansemat.
“Oh, Mansemat,” sighed Shaddad. “You little fool. Here I am trying to avoid killing you, and you will not let me. Very well then…” He sheathed his knife, and then brought his hand to his sword. “I will make this swi…” Shaddad blinked. “Where did you… get that sword, Mansemat?”
Mansemat raised his blade. “I… This be Murgleys, the Sword of Night. I draw it in the name of justice, and of right.”
Shaddad chuckled. “You always had the Dragon’s own luck, boy. Imagine you, of all people, finding what I was looking for.” He shook his head. “Put it down, Mansemat. It will not help you.”
Mansemat took a deep breath. “I am the Dragon’s champion, the Dragon’s choice. I am enfolded in the Dragon’s wings. Where I am, the Dragon is. Lord Shaddad--FACE JUSTICE!”
Lord Shaddad stared at him for a moment, then stepped back. “Ahh. I see. You’re going to be… difficult. Very well.” His hand went to his shirt, and then drew out a strange medallion. “I can solve difficulties. And when they are solved, I will take the blade from your corpse.” He began to chant, a thick black smoke emerging from the amulet, engulfing his form. It rose up into a massive black pillar, and then blew away. Lord Shaddad was now a good twenty ells tall, and wielded two immense blades. A cruel smile came to his now gigantic face. “Still wish to be a hero, boy?”
Mansemat raised Murgleys, and charged at him.