Only Beltron Remains

The Shade King shifted uneasily on his throne. The sounds of battle rang through the halls of his domain with increasing frequency and intensity of late and he longed to join in. Rallos Zek had been quite clear in his orders, however, and Beltron was to remain here in his icy throne room. Despite his uncontested prowess in battle, it was his unmatched affinity for strategy and tactics which led him to be the one chosen by Rallos to lead his undead army of vengeance against Valdeholm. So here he sat, trapped within his frozen prison, hoping against hope that this most recent Wraithguard incursion could finally penetrate his formidable defenses and allow him to once again unleash his boundless rage upon the living.

A small coughing noise drew Beltron from his revelry. Were one such as he even remotely capable of it, Beltron would surely have been surprised by what he saw before him. Smaller by far than even the hunting wolves of Valdeholm, the diminutive intruder gave a perfunctory bow. “Greetings Beltron, King of the Shades. I bear a message from my liege, Lord Ragaroth.”

His thoughts racing, Beltron scrutinized the tiny invader. What, exactly, was this creature that stood so boldly before him? Surely not the work of Rallos Zek, for he would never have created a vessel so clearly unsuited for the rigors of war. This, then, must be the handiwork of one of the lesser godlings, built perhaps to dance or recite poetry. While the undead are largely incapable of what could be termed emotions, Beltron nevertheless felt a stab of disappointment, his hopes of decimating a Wraithguard raiding party faded quickly.

Who then was this Ragaroth? Had someone finally overthrown doddering old King Odeen and claimed his throne? Possibly, Beltron pondered, but that still wouldn’t explain the fleshling before him or how, after thousands of fruitless years, the Wraithguard had finally managed to reach so deep into his domain. No, a more likely scenario would be that the Holmguard had finally enlisted the aid of a group of mercenaries to do what they themselves could not. Ragaroth, it stood to reason, would be the leader of these sell swords and had no doubt sent his messenger to trick Beltron into leaving his fortified crypt as they lay in ambush for him. Did they truly dare to challenge the god of war’s chosen one? Amateurs!

“Neither you nor your liege are of any consequence to me.” Beltron roared. “I exist solely to exact revenge unto the traitorous citizens of Valdeholm; those who have forsaken the very god who gave them life in his time of need. Whatever trickery you came here to perform will be to no avail.”

“I come with no trickery,” Echus assured, “simply a warning.” If the waves of pure hatred that poured out of Beltron bothered him, the rogue’s calm demeanor showed no sign of it.

“A warning!?” Beltron bellowed incredulously. “What warning could a frail fleshling possibly have for The Shade King?” As his temper rose, so too grew the aura of raw, unbridled power that surrounded the rotting general. The stench of ancient decay and fervent madness began to give way to the aroma of burnt o-zone that was the immediate precursor to one of two things: a powerful lightning strike or the unleashing of deep, powerful magic. As they were under ground, Echus was sure it would be the latter. Rallos Zek had clearly spared no expense in creating the instrument of his revenge.

“Simply this: make peace with your gods, Beltron. Diligence is coming for you.”

At this Beltron gave a mighty roar, shaking the Frostcrypt and all within it. With one impossibly fast lunge, he snatched up the rogue and tore his body asunder; wringing the still writhing form between his gigantic undead fists before flinging the remains against the far wall of his throne room. Enraged, the Shade King gave another bellow and closed in on the corpse to commit further atrocities upon it, his bloodlust still far from quenched. Before he could, however, the small glowing soulstone that adorned the necklace Echus wore shattered and a thin curl of smoke arose from within. With that the corpse vanished, leaving only the faint sigh of air rushing in to fill the void the battered corpse had so recently occupied.

Alone with his fury, the Shade King raged, assaulting the very walls of his crypt in an effort to vent the unending wrath that threatened to consume him. He called for his generals, his champions and other minions, but none came. His cries echoed through the now empty halls of Frostcrypt and it was then he realized that he was alone. Diligence, as they called themselves, had done what the combined might of the Valdeholm Empire could never do-they had overcome the might of Rallos Zek’s accursed army, leaving only the King of Shades to sit and await death at their hands.

For the first time in his life and subsequent unlife, Beltron knew fear…