I thought I would post something I wrote for a campaign I'm running. A little story that tries to add definition to some of the Abyssal antagonists that confront the player characters. The 'evil, nihilistic Abyssal' and the 'tormented, damned Abyssal' had been done to death in my game, so I went for something different. Goofy, but different.
* * * *
With a little gurgle, the lump of flesh and soulsteel quivered, and then fell apart.
The Abbot of Hunger and Dust sighed. His experiment had failed. Again. Not that he had any reason to expect anything different.
It seemed that everything he tried these days was doomed to failure. Maybe his necromantic powers had hit a wall. Maybe he just didn't have any good ideas. Or maybe the universe hated him.
The last option seemed the most likely.
The Abbot sighed again, and slowly pushed away from the table. He could consult some of the more advance texts on necromancy and see if there was any insight into the problem confronting him. Or he could talk to the Physician and see if his fellow Daybreak Caste had any ideas. Or he could go to the Mask of Winters himself. If his liege was in a good mood, he might even help.
Or maybe not. No one had ever helped him in the past, so why should they start now?
Before he could start down any one of the multitudinous paths to failure that spread out before him, there was a savage pounding on the door. The entire room shook and it seemed like the door itself would be reduced to splinters. The Abbot wondered if that would be a good thing. After all, if the door broke it would give him something to fix, something that was well within his abilities to repair. Of course, knowing his luck, the door would prove to be beyond him, some sort of special lumber from the Labyrinth or something. Bowing to necessity, or at least to the desire to lessen the burdens that were showered on his head, the Abbot opened the door.
As he did so, a massive, armored fist sailed through the air and almost connected with the Abbot's face. He didn't flinch in surprise. Random violence upon his person was exactly the sort of thing he expected to happen to him. It was something of a surprise when the fist stopped just short. Oh well, there was always next time.
"Hello, Crumbling Pillar," the Abbot said wearily.
The Prince Resplendent in the Ruin of Ages glowered at him. The Abbot expected the hostility, in part because it would be just his luck that the person he was talking to hated him, and in part because the Prince (also called Crumbling Pillar) glowered at everyone. The Abbot would have preferred personalized hatred - at least that would have meant that someone was bothering to think about him. But no, he only got generalized hatred. Just his luck.
"You're coming with me," Crumbling Pillar rumbled. It was hard for him to not rumble when he spoke, seeing as he was close to seven feet tall and massively muscled. His skin was black, an unnatural ebony almost the same color as his soulsteel armor, while his eyes were a white, almost luminescent in their purity.
"Where?" the Abbot asked. "Not that it matters. I suppose I don't have a choice. I never have a choice."
"To the master."
"Oh. Very well. Give me a minute."
So the Mask of Winters wanted to see him. It couldn't be for anything good. It never was.
The Abbot wasn't a big man, nowhere near the size of Crumbling Pillar. In fact, he was rather short and very thin, almost emaciated. The bones of his face and hands almost stuck out of his sallow skin, his thinness emphasizing his eyes to the point that they seemed like huge, dark pools. His ugliness wasn't the supernatural monstrosity that marked some of his Abyssal counterparts, just the ordinary ugliness of a man who saw nothing attractive in the world and so felt himself under no obligation to make himself appealing in return.
It was a modest miracle that the Abbot's robes were where he had thought they were. Predictable. The only good things that happened to him were so small as to be unimportant, but just helpful enough to get his hopes up, get him thinking that other things might go right as well. Which they wouldn't.
After pulling on the oily black robes and the gloves and mask that went with them, the Abbot turned back to Crumbling Pillar.
"Alright, let's go," he said, without enthusiasm.
Crumbling Pillar snorted in annoyance and led the way out of the palace. The Abbot's laboratory was located in the lower levels of the complex of buildings that the Mask of Winters had given over to his deathknight servants, located on the outer edge of the city of Thorns, not far from the living citadel of Juggernaut. The Abbot figured that was because the Mask of Winters didn't trust the Abyssals to not interfere with the politics of the city, so he tried to keep them as close to his supervising gaze possible. The Abbot couldn't really blame him; deathknights were a singularly untrustworthy group. He certainly didn't trust himself and he didn't expect anyone else to be so stupid.
Actually, that wasn't true. The Abbot didn't expect anything other than stupidity from other people, he just didn't expect that stupidity to benefit him.
It was a slight surprise when Crumbling Pillar led him not south out of the city to Juggernaut, but towards the center of Thorns. The reason for this became depressingly clear when they entered a derelict building and began to descend down a decrepit stairway. The Abbot tried to appraise how the stairs would hold up under the weight of Crumbling Pillar's magitech armor, and his conclusion was 'not well.' Of course, if the stone did give way under the weight of the soulsteel, that same soulsteel would likely protect Crumbling Pillar from any injury, while the Abbot would be crushed. Naturally.
"So we're going to the Labyrinth," the Abbot said. "I hate the Labyrinth."
Crumbling Pillar grunted.
"Though maybe hate is too strong a word," the Abbot continued. "Generally speaking, something must be capable of registering emotion itself, and preferably capable of reciprocating said emotion, to be properly hated. I doubt the Labyrinth cares about me one or the other. But then again, who does? Care about me, that is."
As he hopped off the last stair into a broad hallway, a dark figure stepped out from behind the stairway.
"You still running your mouth?" the Maiden of the Mirthless Smile asked. "Is he giving you trouble, sweet Prince?"
Crumbling Pillar grunted noncommittally at his fellow Dusk Caste. The Maiden of the Mirthless Smile smirked, and turned to the Abbot. They were very similar in their outlook, neither of them seeing much value in Creation – or any other plane of existence, for that matter. But the Maiden approached life with a sort of nihilistic sense of humor, an attitude aided by her ghostly beauty and omnipresent smile. Or maybe it was the other way around. The Abbot had never bothered to waste the time to figure out which way it was.
"Do you ever shut up?" she inquired. "I heard you moping all the way down here."
"I only complain because I thought no one was listening," the Abbot replied, nonplussed. "I wouldn't complain if someone could hear."
He sighed. "If they hear, all it does it make them angry. And then I just have more to complain about. Which I can’t do."
"A vicious circle," she said, cocking her head quizzically.
"Not really. This doesn't have anything to do with economic theory. Which is where that term comes from, originally. Not that I expect you to know that."
"Let's get going," Crumbling Pillar rumbled.
"Right," the Maiden of the Mirthless Smile agreed, grinning happily. "We need to get going."
"And where are we going?" the Abbot asked.
The Maiden surprised him by actually answering his question. "He's not going anywhere," she said, pointing her thumb at Crumbling Pillar. "You and me, on the other hand..." She paused, a look that was close to rapture passing over her face. "You and me are going to the main event."
The Abbot didn’t bother to correct her grammar. It wouldn’t have done any good.