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The Dark Lord is confounded when he awakens in the middle of a small town on a planet he's never seen before. What is this strange place, why do they keep calling him Dirk Lloyd, and why is he powerless against these earthlings who insist on finding his parents? Could it be that Dirk Lloyd is really a human incarnation of the Dark Lord who, after a cataclysmic final battle with his arch nemesis, was hurled into the Pit of Uttermost Despair, aka Earth? Or is he just a lost and confused boy? The Dark Lord must ...
The Dark Lord is confounded when he awakens in the middle of a small town on a planet he's never seen before. What is this strange place, why do they keep calling him Dirk Lloyd, and why is he powerless against these earthlings who insist on finding his parents? Could it be that Dirk Lloyd is really a human incarnation of the Dark Lord who, after a cataclysmic final battle with his arch nemesis, was hurled into the Pit of Uttermost Despair, aka Earth? Or is he just a lost and confused boy? The Dark Lord must regain his rightful place in the universe before his powers of domination and destruction are lost forever, and help comes from a most unlikely source . . . a human friend.
Readers will delight in this wickedly humorous tale as the Dark Lord-the Incarnation of Evil, The World Burner-finds that even he might have a good side.
Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhh!" His fall seemed to go on forever. It felt like bits of him were being stripped away, as if he was changing into something else as he fell. After a long time his cries of rage and fear faded and he sank into a kind of sleep, all sensation lost, falling silently in an immense void of nothingness for what seemed like an eternity. Then, suddenly
Pain, so much pain ... Then it faded away, and he took in a great shuddering gulp of air. He coughed and spat out a glob of black mucus. He watched as the mucus formed a small puddle of shiny black oil. He lay for a while, just breathing.
The ground felt like hard gravel. He could barely move. He couldn't think properly and he felt weak and listless. The sky above was blue, painfully blue. He hated blue skies and sunlight.
He needed help. He called out for his lieutenant, Dread Gargon, Hewer of Limbs, but his voice caught in his throat. He tried again.
"Gaa ... Gargon, to me!" he tried to bellow in his most commanding tones, but it only came out as a little squeak, high-pitched and boyish. Where was the dark, imperious voice that sent forth his Legions of Dread to bloody war and pitiless plunder?
He tried once more, but again it came out as a high- pitched trill. He groaned and tried raising his head, but couldn't. He wondered whether his Helm of the Hosts of Hades had slipped off again—if it wasn't balanced just right it could catch his neck in an uncom-fortable pinch.
He reached up, but there was no helm at all. He couldn't feel any horns either, or knobby ridges of bone, only what seemed like a brown mop of hair on a rather small head. And his teeth! They didn't feel right either—no tusks or yellowed fangs to inspire terror and dread. Instead his head felt like a little human head, just like the ones he usually kept impaled on those iron spikes over the Gates of Doom, or the ones that Gargon wore hanging from his belt.
What was going on and where was Gargon?
There was something else as well. Too much harsh sunlight usually fried his undead flesh like an egg in a pan, but he couldn't feel the usual sunfire burns. Not only that, the sky actually seemed rather beautiful. White clouds drifted serenely across the bright blue canopy of the heavens, and birds sang songs of joy in nearby trees. The sun warmed him nicely, and a feeling of ... hmmm, let's see now, something he hadn't felt in eons, a sense of ... peace came over him! Yes, that was it. A sense of peace. How could that be? He'd spent years trying to perfect a spell to cover the sky in the Black Vapors of Gloom but now the bright blueness didn't seem to bother him.
A wash of pain came over him again. That's better, he thought. He didn't want to feel a sense of peace. It just wasn't the sort of thing he should be feeling. After all, he had his reputation to consider ...
With a great effort he was able to turn his head a little and take his eyes off the sky. He saw a low building of dull gray stone on his left, squat and unsightly. Excellent. At least someone was making ugly stuff around here. Maybe it was of Orcish design. You could always rely on Orcs to make ugly stuff .
He saw some kind of banner flying over the building. Runes were written on it, in a strange language. To his surprise he realized he could read them. Savemart Supermarket it said. A market. That didn't sound Orcish. Orcs tended to prefer pillaging to shopping. And Savemart—was he the local overlord, perhaps? Lord Savemart, Smiter of Foes, the Pitiless One? Something about it didn't sound right.
He looked the other way. What he saw was even stranger to his eyes. Several rows of oddly shaped metal boxes gleamed in the sunlight. They were all kinds of different colors, and glass plates had been set into their sides. They rested on four wheels, thickly encrusted with some kind of black resin that looked like the hardset mucus of the Giant Spiderbeasts of Skorpulos. One of the boxes suddenly shuddered to life, rattling away with a terrible noise like the coughing shriek of the dragon before it discharged its fiery breath.
He tried to bend the box to his will. If it was a thing of evil, it should instinctively follow his command. "Beast of Steel and Mucus—I command you in the name of the Dark Lord and by the Power of the Nine Netherworlds!"
But his voice came out as a querulous squeak. The metal box moved away as if he hadn't even spoken. Then he noticed what looked like a human woman inside the box, peering out through the glass panels. Of course! It was some kind of horseless chariot, driven no doubt by magic. The woman must be a potent witch indeed to command such a thing. The wizardry of mortals was getting sophisticated and powerful. He'd have to watch them more closely.
Then he heard a voice—another human by the sound of it—shouting, "Hey, are you all right, son?"
His interest sharpened. A son's lifeblood would help to perk him up. He looked around for the boy the human was talking about but couldn't see any children. Instead he saw two men running toward him, both dressed in curious dark blue uniforms. They looked like a typical pair of ignorant, dumb-as-dormice human soldiers; though their uniforms didn't look very useful for war, and their caps wouldn't stop a sword or an ax, let alone a Goblin pike or an Orc arrow.
He tried to laugh maniacally and tell the humans to flee for their lives or be utterly destroyed, but all that came out was a cough. He tried unsuccessfully to sit up. He was still too weak. The human soldiers stood over him.
Surely his life couldn't end like this, lying helpless, waiting to be killed by a couple of ordinary humans? But then an odd thing happened. One of the warriors bent down and cradled his head. Was he trying to help him?
"Better call an ambulance, Phil."
The man who had spoken leaned closer, looking him over. (Stupid human. Didn't the fool realize who he was dealing with?) Immediately he tried ripping the man's throat out with his iron-taloned Gauntlets of Ineluctable Destruction, but it was no good, he just didn't have the strength. Then he noticed he wasn't wearing any gauntlets, or even gloves. His hands were pink, pallid, and pudgy, with neat little white nails, like those of a wretched little human boy! You couldn't even rip out the throat of a rat with those hands, let alone a fully grown human warrior. He groaned in despair.
The other human whispered something into a little black box attached to the front of his uniform. The black box crackled and spoke back to him! It must have some kind of sprite or minor demon bound into it to do his bidding. That would have taken powerful sorcery. Perhaps they were more than just ordinary human soldiers. Or more likely they served a mighty human wizard king, maybe even the White Wizard himself, Hasdruban the Pure. Hmm, he'd have to bear that in mind.
The human called Phil said, "Okay, ambulance called in."
The other one said, "Don't worry, son, we're police officers. I'm Officer Smith. You can call me John. That's Officer Phil Johnson. The ambulance will be here soon. Take it easy. Best not to move until we know what's wrong with you."
Well, the police officer was right—there certainly was something wrong with him. He couldn't move properly even if he wanted to and his body felt smaller than it should.
The one called Phil said, "Have you got a cell phone, son? We should call your mom or dad."
He wants me to sell a fone? But what's a fone? What was this cretinous manling going on about? And what curious names! Jon? Jon the Smith. Had he made the strange black box in his blacksmithy? And Fill. Fill the land with their dead? Fill your heart with hate, perhaps? What did it mean?
Either way, it was time they knew who was master here. He tried blasting them with the spell of Agonizing Obedience, but he couldn't shape his hands properly or put the right syllables together. It was as if his tongue wouldn't obey him. He couldn't believe what was happening. Where were his powers of domination and destruction?
"What's that he's wrapped in?" said Officer Smith.
"I dunno," said Officer Johnson. "It looks like some kind of oversized blanket. Black blanket though—that's odd. All those weird, red, shiny patterns all over it as well. Looks foreign."
"My nephew's got something like it. I think it's from some fantasy game or film with wizards and dragons and stuff," said Officer Smith.
His robes! So he was still wearing his Cloak of Endless Night. Excellent. They didn't realize those "weird, red, shiny patterns" were Blood Glyphs of Power. Each glyph was a mighty spell. Now he had them!
He managed to crane his neck, focusing on one of the glyphs. It was the Glyph of Domination. All he had to do was read it out loud and all the creatures within a hundred mile radius would be his to command. But he couldn't read it. It didn't make any sense, it seemed completely meaningless. Why could he not understand the glyphs? After all, he had created them! Had they been stripped of their power somehow? What was happening?
The humans were still blathering on, blissfully unaware of his attempts to destroy them.
"Does he speak English? What's your name, kid?" asked Officer Johnson.
The kid, for that's what he looked like, thought for a moment. He couldn't remember his name. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't. But he could remember what he was, and his primary title.
"Daa ... (cough, cough). I am the Dark Lord," he said. To his horror, he realized his voice really did sound like some kind of do-gooding Elf woman or a human boy-child!
"Dirk? Did you say Dirk?"
"No! No! Dark! Dark Lord." But his voice came out wrong, weak and raspy and even more boyish than before.
"Dirk, eh? Dirk Lloyd? Where are your mom and dad, Dirk? Have you been hit by a car? Are you lost, son?"
"Mom and dad?" he sputtered, outraged. "I don't have parents, you curs—I am the Incarnation of Evil! The World Burner! The Dark One, to name but a few of my titles! I'm not someone's little boy, you fools!"
"These computer games. It's an obsession at their age," said Officer Johnson. "Do you know your address, Dirk? Can you tell us what happened?"
"Not Dirk, Dark! And my address is the Iron Tower of Despair, beyond the Plains of Desolation, in the Darklands. I'm not 'American' and I haven't been 'hit by a car' ... Er, what is a car?"
The two police officers exchanged bemused glances.
"That sounds American to me," said Officer Smith.
"How come he doesn't know what a car is? Unless maybe he was hit by one, and now he's suffering from some kind of posttraumatic stress—he's blocked out the memory of it all and taken on the personality of a video game character as a way to deal with it. Who knows?"
"Yup, looks like this one's for social services, that's for sure! I think they'll need a child psychologist, as well," replied Johnson.
As he said this, he pointed a finger at his own temple and moved it around in a circle, as if he were drilling into his skull.
Officer Smith nodded, but gestured with his eyes at "Dirk."
"Not in front of the kid," he hissed.
"What? Oh, yeah, sorry, sorry ... Ah, here comes the ambulance."
A big, white, square metal box thing came hurtling toward them, hardened mucus wheels of the Spider-beasts of Skorpulos spinning furiously. On top, some kind of elemental Spirit of Air had been magically bound into a glass container, and it was flashing bright red and shrieking in agony. Its cries of pain were so loud it hurt his ears. They were cruel, these humans, he thought. Even he, a Dark Lord, wouldn't torture an elemental like that, unless he really had to, or if it had wronged him in some way. It just wasn't an efficient way of doing things.
The metal box pulled up beside them. The air elemental ceased its agonized shrieking at last. Something like jaws opened at the back. Then a man and a woman dressed in dark green clothes came out, pulling a gurney between them.
Ah! he thought to himself. They are doors, not jaws. Of course! And the humans must be from some other branch of the humans' armed forces, but they looked even less useful as soldiers than the men dressed in blue.
"What's your name, young man?" said the woman breezily, obviously trying to give off an air of confident assurance.
Aha, he thought, perhaps she has an idea of who I am and is trying to cover up her fear.
Then one of the police officers said, "His name's Dirk. Dirk Lloyd. He can't move, but we can't see anything wrong with him at all, and the boy can't seem to tell us either."
"No, not Dirk, it's Dark, and I'm not a boy!" said the boy desperately, but they didn't seem to take much notice of him. A wave of weakness came over him and he sighed resignedly. Dirk it is then, he thought to himself. For now. Until he got his powers back. Then they would know him by his full name and title, that was for sure!
"Okay, Dirk, we're going to check you out," she said. She started poking him, pushing here and there, lifting his eyelids and shining a bright light into his eyes. It was odd. Normally shining such a light into his eyes would burn the back of his brain like acid, much the same as holy water thrown into the face of a vampire. And yet he felt nothing now.
He heard the police officers talking with the man in green. They were mumbling things like, "Posttraumatic stress ... Can't get anything out of him ... Claims to be from another world ... Some kind of dissociative personality disorder ... Seems physically fine except for the paralysis ..." and so on. It didn't make much sense to him but it seemed kind of patronizing. He'd disassociate their bodies from their personalities if his powers were working, no question!
"Right, Dirk, we're going to lift you up onto the stretcher. Everything's going to be okay," said the woman.
They lifted him with great care, which surprised him, because he expected to be roughly handled, if not killed outright. They loaded him into the back of the strange metal box they called an "Ambew Lance." Could the military unit these green-garbed humans served be the Legion of the Knights of Ambew? Inside it was also white, and very clean. The metallic smell and the hard steel racks reminded him of one of his torture chambers back home, despite the nasty clean whiteness of it all.
Perhaps that was it. Perhaps they intended to torture him. He couldn't see any lances anywhere, though, much less an iron maiden, spiked glove, or stretching rack. Amateurs!
The man—they called the ones dressed in green "paramedics"—leaned over him with a nasty looking needle in his hand.
Ah yes, torture it is then, thought Dirk—not exactly a lance, but just as agonizing if used in the right way. He strengthened his resolve. He was the Dark Lord, after all, and he wasn't going to break easily.
"I'm sorry, but we need to take some blood tests. It won't hurt ... much," the paramedic said.
What kind of torture is it if it doesn't hurt? But still, he didn't really want to be tortured. And what if it wasn't torture but some kind of hideous magical device for the slaying of Dark Lords?
The paramedic brought the needle closer. Dirk saw a hollow space inside it—could it be filled with clear liquid? Some kind of toxin, probably. Perhaps even water blessed at a sacred spring. By the Nether Gods, it would burn his undead veins like acid!
"Wait!" he shouted.
The paramedic paused. "Don't worry, kid, it really doesn't hurt," he said.
"I'll give you power and wealth beyond anything you've ever dreamed of," said Dirk. "A province to govern, armies to command, magic items and spells, whatever you want! Just don't kill me!"
The man laughed out loud, as if it was all a joke, and leaned forward with the needle. Dirk managed to raise a hand to ward him off, and noticed that his Ring of Power was still on his finger, even though the hand was small, pallid, and dumpy. He still had his Ring! He tried to smear the paramedic across one wall of the vehicle, using a Blast of Ravening Flame from the ring, but nothing happened.
He looked at the ring closely. Normally, mighty runes writhed and coruscated continuously around it, but now the runes were dull and lifeless; it looked more like a simple band of dull gray lead than a Ring of Power. This was the last straw for Dirk. He had invested most of his ancient power and might, gathered over millennia of magical research, into that Ring, and it was all gone. His Great Ring was worthless, along with his robes and all his spells. How far had the mighty fallen!
Excerpted from DARK LORD by Jamie Thomson Copyright © 2011 by Jamie Thomson. Excerpted by permission of Walker & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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