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Necromancer Crackerjack of the Platonic Shadow (#2261)

Owner: 0x24D7…e52b

Chapter 1: “My name is Ozymandias, king of wings; Look on my works, ye Wizards, and despair!"

The wizard was just a dark speck on the vast yellow battlements below. The flame of his torch flickered back and forth between the cold winds raging down from the mountains and the warm gusts of salty sea air blowing in over the desert from Asmodeus’s Surf. Clearly agitated, the wizard was muttering to himself and waving his arms above his head in exasperation. He stopped, sighed expansively, then took a draught of ale.

From his vantage point high above, Ozymandias could see the multi-coloured lights dancing across the Riviera and sparkling on the river as it flowed towards Kelpie’s Brine. He flapped his frail, leathery wings furiously, a few vestigial feathers dancing manically in the buffeting winds as he struggled to maintain his position. He was pretty sure that a Cockatrice – even one with cretaceous genes – had no business being this high off the ground.

Despite the force of the winds, the sounds of revelry and the reverberations of ‘Drum and Bass and Sorcery’ pulsated in his eardrums – a repetitive, dull vibration. He could feel the jagged distortions of power emanating from the Quantum Shadow, crackling across his shiny scaled back.

No doubt his master, waiting back in the Valley of the Void Disciple, would expect details. He always did. As the wizard stalked along the battlements, Ozymandias clucked quietly, then folded his wings to his sides and dropped like a stone out of the night sky. He tore past the crest of the battlements in a blur, obscured (he was sure) by the darkness of moonless night and the inky blackness of the Quantum Shadow. Pulling sharply out of the nosedive, he flapped somewhat clumsily upwards (he was quite adept at rapid descents, but he was not what one might call an elegant soarer). Resisting the thrust of the icy wind at his back, he managed to manoeuvre himself in a wobbly approach towards the crenulations of the castle. Perhaps, he thought, he could get a closer look at what the wizard was up to.

Suddenly a flashing object spun outwards into the darkness. Ozymandias squawked with surprise as it loomed large in his vision, ducking his head just in the nick of time. The mug slapped against the leathery red comb atop his head but sailed onwards, falling away into obscurity in a lazy arc. Terror lent him speed as he dove for cover, wings beating frantically as he sought the safety of the towering castle wall.

He’s spotted me! He flattened himself against the wall, barely daring to breathe. Master cannot bring me back to life again if my body is lost…

He clung to the wind-blasted brickwork, paralysed by a sudden and terrible dread. It could well be worse if his master did find him. Even familiars were not often spared punishment in the Valley of the Void Disciple. If Ozymandias had been warm-blooded, a chill would have rushed through his veins.

Slowly, a thought began to form in his reptilian brain.

But if the wizard knew I was there, would he not have used his magic? Do wizards often use mugs of ale as weapons?

He clucked softly to himself, puzzling over this rather confusing line of questioning. His eyes narrowed in concentration, yet try as he might, he could not figure it out. He lashed his long, whiplike tail in frustration. He might have been stuck there all night if the thought of his master’s retribution had not suddenly popped back into his mind. With a fearful shudder, he wriggled his haunches and began the long climb to the top – he wasn’t going to expose himself again by flying out in the open, not when mugs or who knows what kind of magic might come hurtling out of the darkness at him….

Peeking his head over the battlements, Ozymandias’s eyes widened. Oh… This is bad. This is VERY bad. The wizard was nowhere to be seen. He gasped for air, partly because his thinly-clawed forearms were not built for climbing and partly because he was starting to feel a mild panic coming on. Familiars had been made into accessories for less than this!

Master wouldn’t do that. Not to his loyal Ozymandias. He tried hard to believe himself – not to think of what a jolly snakeskin lampshade Wesley had become. He knocked his head a couple of times against the wall, to see if it would dislodge any useful ideas. Once the pain subsided and his vision cleared, the door on the far side of the battlements came into focus. Of course! He cackled softly to himself and hopped off the wall, flapping his way heavily around the castle towards the main gate.

Wizards think far too much of themselves to use the servant’s exit, he thought smugly, congratulating himself on his brilliant deduction as he rounded the corner. A yellow hat bobbed along the path in the distance, illuminated by the flame of the wizard’s torch.

Ozymandias couldn’t stop himself from chortling with glee at his upturn in fortunes as he set off after the wizard. Master had been right, Ofaris was definitely up to something.

What that something was, Ozymandias had not the faintest idea. But any somethings the Pyromancer was up to would be duly noted and relayed, and Ozymandias would be rewarded. If there was one thing Necromancer Crackerjack enjoyed, it was being right. And even more than that, he enjoyed being able to display that rightness to The Great Lord of the Void.

There might even be some nice juicy flesh in this for Ozymandias. With that incentive galvanising him, the creature focused his inconsiderable intellect on getting ready to observe and remember the events to come, so that he wouldn’t overlook anything the Master thought important. If he was lucky, he would be on his way back to the Valley by sunrise. Chapter 2: The Necromancer and the Dream Whisperer Necromancer Crackerjack waited silently, drumming the tabletop with the feathered fingers of one hand as he slowly rotated the crystal skull in the other. The Rune of Neptune engraved in its forehead glowed faintly as he delved the skull. Misty spirals swirled across the crystalline features as the souls trapped within stirred under the touch of his mind.

He looked up, training a beady black eye on his captive. The wizard lay spreadeagled on his back atop the stone slab, his robe ripped open to expose his bony chest. Angry red welts overlaid the scars of previous lashings. He was whimpering quietly. The Archmagus had given up straining against the spell-bonds Crackerjack had set several days ago, when Voidoth, the Great Lord of the Void, had first handed him over to his head disciple. The Lord of the Void had not been gentle. Now it was just a matter of time in Crackerjack’s care before the Dream Whisperer cracked beneath the pressure. Beads of sweat broke out on the captive’s brow. He gritted his teeth and arched his back as smoky tendrils snaked their way out of the skull’s empty eye sockets and coiled themselves around his body, biting into the soft flesh.

Crackerjack grinned as the wizard’s howls of pain echoed in the stony chamber.

“So tell me, Dream Whisperer, how did you find yourself wandering around in the dreams of the Lord of the Void?” he asked when the man’s screams had quietened to soft sobs. There was no reply.

“You are surely not so much of a fool as to have stumbled in there by accident, and you cannot think me such a fool as to imagine I would ever believe such drivel. No, no, you were after something, and Lord Voidoth has tasked me to loosen your tongue. Not literally of course. Not yet anyway.” He stared across the chamber at his captive and waited. Still no reply…

He rushed across the floor in one lithe movement, grabbing the wizard’s grey beard in his hand and tugging sharply. “I will ask you again. Who sent you? Was it the Key Master? What does he know of the Lord of the Void’s plans?”

The Archmagus’s eyes widened, and he began to shake his head and babble incoherently, breaking free of Crackerjack’s grip and leaving behind a tuft of grey hairs in his hand. The Necromancer dropped the hairs on the floor and wiped his hand on his robe disdainfully. He knew physical torture was hard for the wizard to bear, but it was the mental anguish that the Dreamer truly feared. It was always so much more effective on those with imagination. The old man knew what was coming next – and that he was powerless to stop it.

The wizard’s mangy rat familiar squealed from the smaller slab beside its master, as if it, too, knew what was in store. It struggled vainly against the bond that held it pressed to the stone, and the Dream Whisperer’s eyes rolled back in his head as the souls went to work on his mind. Crackerjack preened himself distractedly; he couldn’t concentrate with that infernal squeaking. He bent, lashing out with his razor-sharp beak, and yanked out one of the tiny beast’s whiskers at the root. The rat froze in shock, just the tip of his nose quivering uncontrollably.

Crackerjack stepped back and folded his arms. “That’s better, little one. I will have use for you once this is all done. I would hate to have that ruined out of simple annoyance. The Lord of the Void is most welcoming of new disciples, even… no… especially a plague rat. There are many ways you can serve him. And me.”

He gave the rat what he hoped was a piercing look, then turned back to the wizard. “I am getting tired of repeating myself old man,” he hissed. Although he knew it would not be long now before the souls overpowered the Dream Whisperer and took control of his mind, Crackerjack could not help starting to feel impatient. It was always so, when victory was this close.

Not for the first time that night, he wondered what was taking his scrawny familiar so long to get back from Yellow Wizard Haven with news of the Pyromancer. Ofaris was becoming a threat with his meddling, and it was vexing the Lord of the Void. And anything that vexed the Great Overlord was a complication in Crackerjack’s life.

Serves me right for trusting a dinosaur chicken, he berated himself. The creature’s brain couldn’t be larger than an imp’s pimple. He wondered if Voidoth would allow him to replace the idiot creature with this plague rat once the Dream Whisperer had been broken. He glanced over at the snakeskin lampshade on the table and felt the familiar sense of satisfaction. Wesley had been even dumber than Ozymandias, but he was certainly decorative. With that thought cheering him slightly, Crackerjack turned back to his captive.

“The Lord of the Void has taken a particular interest in your talents, Blue Wizard,” he sneered, pouring the scorn it deserved into the title. “He will use you to gain access to the others, you know. All of them. You are quite helpless to stop it.” The wizard shuddered, sweat beading all over his exposed skin. Crackerjack softened his gaze and smiled down at the Archmagus. He stroked a feathery hand along the man’s cheek, wiping away the tears, and cooed gently: “It can be so easy, Soran, if you just tell me what you know.”

The wizard’s face contorted as his mind struggled against the influence of the souls. Taking a deep breath, he began to speak in a barely audible, shuddering whine. Crackerjack’s smile broadened and he leaned in to listen. The Dream Whisperer now belonged to the Lord of the Void.

Story Arc Index:

Prologue: Wizard #777

Part 1: Wizard #4298

Part 2: Wizard #292

Part 3: Wizard #2261

Part 4: Wizard #3911

Part 5: Wizard #1177

Part 6: Wizard #2876

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