Chapter 1
Setting the Stage

AT 1077 (AZ 1449) - Early Summer
The Black Keep, The Darklands

The Dark Eternal watched the growth of the young Lich with great interest. Once it reached adulthood, it called itself the Monarch Lich, a fitting name for the new king of this land and perhaps soon the king of all lands. The Monarch Lich raised an undead army from the thousands that slept beneath the ashes. The fell races and the lesser monsters quickly capitulated and the Chaos Dominion was born anew under the rod of a great and mighty lord.
Even after the Dominion was revived, the Darklands were not wholly tamed. It took nearly twenty years to quell every last pocket of resistance, but the Lich emerged the undisputed ruler from the river to the sea, forging powerful alliances along the way that would share in the triumph of the Darkness. With all this accomplished, the Monarch Lich craved new conquests and grew impatient as the years dragged on, waiting for his power to reach its peak. The impetuousness of his human side was a flaw he always had and the Dark Eternal worked continually to try to break him of it with little success.
The Lich was particularly restless on this day, pacing back and forth in his throne room. His frustration had led to rather vicious attacks on his attendants, both the living and the living in death. The Dark Eternal watched from the shadows, not that he had any fear of the Monarch Lich's power, but simply to observe.
"It is not enough that I have the Darklands," the Lich said to no one in particular, though perhaps he could sense the Dark Eternal's presence. "It is Zephyr I want. How else can I prove the might of the new Dominion unless I defeat the victor over the old? My forces will cross the sea. I will crush them all, shatter them like glass."
Emerging from the shadows, the Dark Eternal said, "It is not for the sake of your own pride that you exist. You live to further the Dark Race. You have not achieved the fulness of your power. You have not yet passed on your seed."
"And when I pass on my seed, I diminish," the Lich replied irritably. "What will I have accomplished, conquering a land already given to the Darkness? It has been nearly two thousand years since the Dark Race was revived. What has it accomplished in all that time? Who has made the world quake as the Black Lich did in ages past?"
"The Black Lich was powerful indeed," the Dark Eternal said, "his deeds great and terrible, but he ultimately failed in his purpose because he sought glory for himself over ultimate victory. Only in the end did he realize the error of his ways."
"You would presume to lecture me?"
The Dark Eternal held a pale hand over the void that was once his heart.
"The Black Lich's will lives on in me. Do not forget that it is I who revived the Dark Race, I who have guided your ancestors, I who preserved you when you were at your weakest, and I who will see the Dark Race achieve its goal."
Hunger flashed in the Monarch Lich's eyes. His body tensed as if he was a crouching lion waiting to pounce. Stretching out his hand as if to grasp at the swirling void hidden behind the Dark Eternal's physical form, the Lich said, "Give me your share of the Black Lich's power and I will show your our goal achieved in my lifetime."
Unmoved, the Dark Eternal replied, "You speak foolishly. Your body would never survive. The frailty of your human half could not withstand it."
"Who are you to speak of the frailty my human half," the Monarch Lich hissed, "you who were once human yourself?"
It was a foolish question born of foolish thoughts.
"I have transcended the flesh and sustain myself on the souls of countless victims," the Dark Eternal said. "You know that what you see before you is but a borrowed shape, a mere projection. A Lich must be flesh and blood, a race of undead kings trapped in mortal shells until they can find perfection. You are but a step along the way."
His anger at its peak, the Lich made an animalistic growl as he lashed out his hand at one of his attendants, holding him in the grip of his power. Purple flames burst forth and reduced the hapless attendant to ashes. Looking on his handiwork and the futility of his wrath, he slumped back on his throne and held his head in silent brooding for a moment.
"What would you have me do?" the Lich asked.
"Let Zephyr come here," the Dark Eternal replied. "In their zeal, they will throw all their forces at you, but the advantage will go to you. They will fall in these cursed lands, far from their home. Their lands will lay open and exposed. The vulnerability of the Darklanders to the world of light will count for little when there are none with the strength to stand against them."
"You would have me play the coward, hiding in the Black Keep while those worms come to me?" the Lich growled.
"Do not let your human blood cloud your judgment," the Dark Eternal warned. "The so-called virtues extolled by lesser creatures is nothing more a shield for their weakness and desperation. Do not succumb to them."
The Monarch Lich mulled over the Dark Eternal's words. Dox was confident that the blood and reason of the Dark Race would assert itself. After a few moments, the Lich spoke again.
"You vex me, Dark Eternal," he said, "but you are a true servant of the Dark Race." He pointed to an attendant and said, "Go, fetch the human the scouting party brought to me. I have a use for him."
"Yes, Your Majesty," the attendant said, immediately scurrying off.
The Dark Eternal was pleased to see the results he expected. The Monarch Lich would surely prove himself a worthy successor of the Dark Race. The spread of the Darkness would soon consume the entire world.