Chapter 1
Make Way for the King

AT 1079 (AZ 1451) - Summer
Near the Ruins of Poris, The Darklands

Ever since the Monarch Lich's conquest of the Darklands, Medusa found herself tasked to serve as the Lich's inspector of the realm. She would regularly make the rounds from one end of the Chaos Dominion to the next, ensuring there was no disloyalty or other irregularities. She had the license to subject anyone under the Monarch Lich to the judgment of stone. In truth, she enjoyed the power.
She had just finished her meeting the the Queen of the Herakles colony in Poris. Of course, she was not actually speaking to that Queen but rather their Queen of Queens, the one the Monarch Lich dubbed Basilissa. The Queens of the sister colonies were nothing more than puppets to execute her will. Basilissa was a rival to her friend Arachne and it would seem that she had designs to usurp Arachne's place as the Monarch Lich's consort. Medusa hated Basilissa as her friend hated her, but on the King's business, she was guarded in her approach.
One of the Herakles workers was escorting her out of the tunnels. When daylight broke, or what passed for daylight in these lands, one of the Monarch Lich's dead slaves was waiting for her.
"Mistress Medusa," the walking corpse said, "I bring word from His Majesty the King."
"Speak," she said coolly. She was never fond of the legions of the dead.
"His Majesty has a new mission for you."
The slave had annoyingly long pauses between each sentence, as if speaking was especially laborious for him. Medusa had little patience for it.
"Out with it then. What is this mission?"
She was close to the Stone Forest and looking forward to spending some time with Arachne, but there was nothing to do but obey the Monarch Lich's will.
Even with Medusa's urging, it took an uncomfortably long time for the slave to speak again.
"You are to continue your rounds throughout the realm, but now you will also measure the strength of the armies that flock to His Majesty's banner. His Majesty desires a full report by spring."
Medusa had heard the rumors that the Dominion was preparing for war. She had learned of the ruin of the previous Dominion when it went off on the march to war and wondered if the current one would meet the same end. The power of the Monarch Lich was great indeed, but would that be enough? It was not her place to say. Her task was simply to assess the strength of the Lich's many vassals throughout the land. So long as her own neck was not on the line, the fools could beat the drums and shake the spears all they like.
"His Majesty's will be done," she told the servant.
There was no need for her to worry about the folly of war. She had her task. The Monarch Lich's domain was vast and there were many miles for her traverse before spring came.