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Servant of Yoch-Tlesh

by Geoff Gander

"Have you any progress to report, my servant?", asked the shrill, piping voice, its words twisted into a parody of coherent speech.

"Not as of yet, my lord. My servants, they are lacking in some respects, I.."

"Silence!", shouted the shrill voice, "I grow weary of your constant bungling, as do our Masters, They Who Wait Beyond the Vault of Space. My anger is as nothing compared to Theirs, you pitiful worm! I will see something accomplished by you, if I have to..."

"No! I beg you!", the other pleaded. "Have mercy upon me! I have given my utmost to your efforts; I have been stymied by the worst of ill-luck! Did I not loyally take the Oath? For if I was disloyal in the least, The Masters would have cut me down long ago. My very existence to you now should prove my devotion, and..."

"Enough!!", the other cut in, "Loyal you may be, but the Masters will not excuse incompetence! You were given the gifts of deception, guile and wit. We made you into what you are today, worm, and our agents have always assisted you in keeping control over that insignificant cesspool you call a barony. Pah! We gave you ten years - ten years! - to complete the takeover of your kingdom, yet you failed! It is obvious to me that you were clearly unsuitable to the task.

"Perhaps someone else would be more suited to your role. We have initiated a new Servant, a prominent politician in another of your petty states. Perhaps he will prove more resourceful. As for you, perhaps you will prove more useful somewhere else. I think you would do well as a personal plaything of Yoch-Tlesh, I hear he needs a new one. His old one was...unsatisfactory.", said the piping voice in an ominous tone.

The kneeling figure let out a sharp gasp of horror, and let out a low wail of anguish.

"But I will not let that happen...yet.", said the inhuman voice with a self-satisfied air. "Remember, fool," the voice intoned, "what we give to you, we can easily take away. Your very existence is due to the graces of our Masters. Should you falter, even one iota, you shall see greater horrors, and feel greater agony, than I could ever inflict upon you."

The grovelling figure felt a cold, wet pressure above his left ear. Slowly, the feeling spread down his jaw line, and under his chin. Then, he felt an abrupt jerk, and his face was forced upwards, to gaze briefly upon the hideous form of his master.

His scream of utter horror seemed to last for an eternity.


With a start, he awoke. His bed linens lay scattered all about his chambers, no doubt as a result of his fevered strugglings during the night. Shakily, his clambered out of bed, and padded to an austere washbasin along the nearest wall. Reaching his hands deep into the cool water, he scrubbed himself vigorously, trying to remove the taint he perceived more than felt on his skin. It was no use, it was never any use.

Mumbling to himself, he dressed in his best clothes. Today he would hold audiences, and no doubt he would hold counsel with his trusted wizard. Resplendent in his best attire, he strode from his bedchamber, and padded down the long hallway to his dining hall, where his breakfast would no doubt lie waiting for him. He always found that he could never eat very much after meeting his master; the desire simply was not there. His stomach lurched at the memories - that voice, that smell...better not dwell on it.

Grimly, he made his way to his seat at the head of the long table, and was seated by one of his retainers. At the other end, his wizard was already eating, smearing on thick layers of jams onto freshly-baked bread.

"Good morning to you, my lord!", said the wizard, "and how does my Black Eagle fare today?"