Deep underground, below the Yenith Peaks, a secret society thrives unnoticed by those on the surface. Flocking to the hidden city of Darkbloom, creatures of all shapes and sizes mingle under the perpetual glow of bioluminescent mushrooms and find shelter in ancient structures built by architects of a lost age. Though the city's strength lies in its incredible diversity, this also proves to be its greatest liability - there is never a shortage of competing interests to cause friction between the subterranean dwellers. But despite their differences, they still share a singular, collective goal to preserve their hidden world and not allow conflict to escalate past the point of no return. If a peaceful resolution cannot be achieved by their own means, the dispute is brought before an impartial judge - a Watcher known as Naar'Zul, the Arbiter. Hidden deep within a labyrinthian stone temple, his judgement is treated as law. Nobody knows how long he has held this position, and nobody cares to question it, as it is clear that without someone to maintain order in their burgeoning and chaotic civilization, Darkbloom would once again fall to ruin.
“Tell me how to get to Naar’Zul’s chamber or I’ll kill you, old man.”
I sighed heavily and looked up at Mitsuro. Only years of knowing the feisty, four-horned demon made me certain it was an empty threat.
“Then you won’t have anyone to ask now will you, Mitsu?”
Mitsuro glared and threw one of my chairs across the room, smashing it into pieces on the far wall. Luckily, my ancestors that built Darkbloom seemed to know a thing or two about solid stone construction. Maybe they somehow knew demons and faeries would eventually take refuge alongside us down here.
“Do you ever wonder why there’s nobody else to ask? Why I’m the last one?” I asked, watching the agitated demon stomp around my living room.
“Because they’re dead,” Mitsu said, giving me the very obvious, but darkly correct answer.
“Yes. Because they’re dead,” I said and took a sip of my tea. It was infused with herbs and mushrooms from the upper realms to keep my wits about me.
“Speak plainly, human. I know you’re trying to make a point and I don't got the patience for riddles.”
I put the tea cup down and already my hand was shaking. Flashes came back to me. A face. Within another face. One of them had eyes. The other had a mouth. There was nowhere to focus, not when they didn’t move in tandem.
“They’re dead because they chose to be,” I said.
I looked up at Mitsuro, but my head was swimming. Just thinking of the monstrosity that hid in the massive temple at the center of Darkbloom caused my already tenuous grasp on reality to begin slipping again. The way its mouth moved, but did not match the words that came out. How they echoed in that chamber and through my mind at the same time, as if they were only spoken aloud in some perverted attempt at human custom.
My hand moved to the teacup, but missed, sending the liquid spilling all over the table. Or was it me that was spilling? My mind pouring out of my skull?
“Amriel!” Mitsuro yelled and marched over to me, putting his huge hands on my shoulders, trying to hold me up.
“Klara,” I whispered, trying to focus on the only reason I wanted to remain alive – my beautiful granddaughter. She needed me. Or was it me that needed her?
I grabbed at Mitsuro’s wrist as I made a last ditch effort to keep my mind from splintering apart. “It’s a monster, Mitsu. And I don’t mean like the fabled killer Kuroshi that you demons seem so afraid of. I don’t mean the impossible beasts of legend that live in your Blastlands, either. This thing… It isn’t about power, Mitsu, or your soul, or even the depths of your mind,” I said and looked to him.
In his eyes I saw my face. And my face within my face. Within my face. Within my face…
“It’s about eternity.”
If you are interested in gathering some artifacts of Naar'Zul for your collection, below are a few we have to offer in our humble shop:
"Naar'Zul, the Arbiter"
4.13" x 5.83" (10.5cm x 14.8cm) Mini Print
$10.00 CAD / $8.00 USD