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Loot Grind

“To arms! The main gates have been breached!” The messenger streaked through the halls calling its warning as the palace guards readied their weapons and assumed their posts. The distant clash of steel echoed along the walls, a frenzied din of fighting that was drawing slowly nearer.

“Sounds like they’re having trouble with the Empusa guarding the entry hall.” Zolvath, an ash-skinned machae warrior, leaned back against the stone doorway and absently tapped its shield on the floor.

“Hasn’t Trorzazad been letting his bone scourges roam the upper halls recently?”

“Oh that’s right,” Zolvath smirked. “That’ll be it.”

The muffled sounds of skirmish silenced for a moment, and both demons cocked their heads, listening intently. A few moments passed, and then a great scraping of steel on stone screeched through the lower floors.

“The Dread Gates. They got past the reanimated giants.” The other machae stood a little straighter.

“I always said they weren’t worth the blood to reanimate them but Daz’Gath wouldn’t listen.”

“Oh well, too late now. Maybe our brethren scouts between there and here will wear them down. Who’s commanding the Scourge Wing this week, isn’t it Gograzuth?”

“Gograzuth,” Zolvath grinned a wicked sneer of pointed teeth. “They’ll never get past Gograzuth.”

The sounds of heated battle continued; a rush of steel on steel with shouts and yells and screams of pain interspersed with pockets of silence after which the next din would sound a little closer.

Both machae shuffled uncomfortably.

“Have you ever known an intruder to get this far in?” Zolvath picked at one of the metal studs on its shield.

“Once, before Our Great Lord Joros took the Dark Throne.”

“That’s right, I keep forgetting how long you’ve been here. How come you’re still just a warden? If you’ve survived this long you must have considerable skill in battle.”

“You think I’d rather be in Gograzuth’s place?” The machae winced as a tortured demonic scream carried through the dark passages to their post. “Nobody bats an eye if a warden turns up after a fight with a few broken bones, but if a Warlord or Sentinel doesn’t fight to the death, there’s hell to pay.”

“Sounds like you’ll soon get to employ that tactic again,” Zolvath pulled its shield a little closer and gave a few practice swings of its axe. “They’re almost upon us.”

A wounded machae archer staggered around the corner at the end of the hall, struggling to fit an arrow to its bow with trebling fingers, eyes wide as it tripped backwards and away from its pursuer. A human woman rounded the corner behind it and bore down on the archer hard, the mace and hammer she wielded breaking through the machae’s bow and following through into its face. The force of the blow threw the machae down the length of the hall and it skidded to a stop at the two wardens’ feet.

“This is it, then,” the one machae said to the other. “For the Great Lord!”


The halls of the palace, usually bustling with regimental activity, were silent save for the pained groans of the fallen. Zolvath pushed itself up to sit against the wall and looked at the carnage around it. The human had tore through their flanks as if through paper, swatting them aside as she carved a path to the throne room.

“This one survives,” a voice hissed through the darkness. Zolvath struggled to turn its head and saw an empusa with a broken wing sorting through the chaos.

“Are we fallen?” It asked the winged demoness.

“The throne is taken. Great Lord Joros is dead.”


“To arms! The main gates have been breached!” The messenger streaked through the halls calling its warning as the palace guards readied their weapons and assumed their posts. The distant clash of steel echoed along the walls, a frenzied din of fighting that was drawing slowly nearer.

“So soon? We’ve only just recovered from the last attack.”

“The humans are getting bold. Perhaps under the leadership of our Great Lord Og’theth, we will show them their place.”

“You voted for Og’theth, then?” The fresh-faced machae soldier hopped from one foot to the other eagerly, limbering up for the coming battle.

“We share the same brood mother,” Zorvath replied. It rubbed its shoulder, still stiff from the last battle months ago. The machae it had stood with then had not survived the encounter, and Zorvath considered itself lucky that it had been given a second opportunity to defend the Dark Throne.

“Here they come,” the young machae adopted the standard fighting stance taught in the training pits.

A human woman rounded the corner and charged at them, mace and hammer turning deft circles through the air in an intricate dance that sent the crumpled bodies of defeated machae slamming into the walls in its wake.

Zorvath squinted. This human looked familiar, though its armor was different. It wielded the same weapons, but with an improved technique.

“It can’t be,” Zorvath muttered.


“It’s the same human woman who brought down Joros.”

“Returned, again?”

“So it would seem.” Zorvath took a step back into the shadows, melding into the darkness as the new recruit led a foolish one-demon charge into the human’s path. It would not survive.


“To arms! The main gates have been breached!” The messenger streaked through the halls calling its warning as the palace guards readied their weapons and assumed their posts. The distant clash of steel echoed along the walls, a frenzied din of fighting that was drawing slowly nearer.

Zorvath peered down over the balustrade.

“Yep, it’s her again.”

“Third time this week?”

“Fourth, if you count the time she summoned that portal and vanished half way through tearing through the Keres in their laboratories on the fourth floor.”

“Ah yes! Vogmod still cries over the loss of his experiments.”

How Zorvath had secured the post of watcher was a small dark miracle, but after the third defeat at the hands of this battle-crazed human woman – ‘hero’, it had learned the humans refer to her as such – it had somehow managed to impress upon its watch commander that its knowledge of the enemy would make it better suited for a sentry position.

Zorvoth rested its chin on its crossed arms, leaning over the railing and peering down at the chaos unfolding beneath.

“Do you think Great Lord Mazridaan will triumph?” Its companion machae wondered aloud.

“When so many others have fallen?”

“I’m amazed that Great Lord Mazridaan accepted the vote at all.”

Zorvath chuckled. “The votes are merely a formality at this point. They’ve got a queue of successors lined up; when one falls, the other gets shunted into place.”

“Has it really come to that?” The machae leaned over the balustrade next to Zorvath and watched from its safe vantage point as the human woman tore through their ranks. She now took the shortest route through the palace directly to the throne room, having learned the layout intimately on her many incursions. “Why does she keep coming? Is it not enough for her that she has humiliated us time and time again? She is clearly superior to us; why torture us like this? It’s barbaric.”

“I mean, we have been systematically killing and enslaving humankind for thousands of years…” Zorvath leaned back. It had seen this scene unfold so many times now that watching the ease with which the woman ripped through the Dark Palace’s demonic horde was becoming boring.

“I guess. This just feels sick on a whole other level though, putting us through this defeat time and time again, one Great Lord after another after another.”

Zorvath shrugged. As long as it got to watch from a safe distance, it didn’t much care for the why’s and wherefores.

Minutes later, the Horn of Xostrudak reverberated its dark note through the still air. The Great Lord had, once again, fallen.


“I’ll be back later today,” Yanna secured the enchanted steel helmet on her head and strapped it beneath her chin.

“I look forward to it,” The merchant smiled and wrung his hands greedily. “You have become my best supplier. You really don’t want any of this gear?”

“No,” Yanna flexed her neck from side to side and then began casting the activation sequence for her portal to the Dark Palace. “I’ve found better from the demons, they’ve got a whole stash of magical gear hidden away in the throne room with their Great Lord.”

“Then why do you keep going? Not that I’m complaining,” his eyes twinkled with anticipation of Yanna’s next haul.

“I found a skeleton in a cave along the coast,” her fingers traced through the last of the sequence and a pale blue column of light shimmered into existence in front of her.

“I’m sure you find many skeletons in many caves, given your adventuring.”

“I do, but this one had a scroll on it that told of an ancient trinket that opens a set of gates somewhere along the northern rim; gates to a long forgotten tomb with vast wealth inside.”

“More so than what you keep bringing me from the demon’s complex?”

“Much more.”

“And what does this have to do with the Dark Lord?”

“The trinket was in a castle that the demons raided, and hasn’t been seen since. One of the demon lords was leading that raid. I keep killing their Dark Lords, they keep slotting another Lord into the throne – I’ll eventually get the lord that has that trinket.”

“You’re crazy,” The merchant laughed. “But it’s the kind of crazy that’s making me rich, so who am I to stand in the way?”

Yanna pulled her mace and hammer from their holsters and stepped into the portal.