A Watchful Eye
Prince of Shadows
Quote: As you wish, mistress.
If anyone ever found out the mighty Prince of Shadows, Paladin of Nephwracks, was once a mere mortician’s apprentice born to poverty, he would die of shame. Actually, the person who discovered his shame would die and fall screaming to Oblivion, but the Prince would be most embarrassed, and he fears that fate worse than any death. The Abyssal is a man of class and impeccable refinement, as beautiful now as he was once pathetically average. His long ebon hair always hangs just so, perfectly coiffed to frame his high cheekbones. His pallid complexion is more alabaster statue than animate corpse, more eternal than mere flesh. His manners are genteel. His mastery of formal etiquette is beyond reproach. He is the very paragon of nobility but for the fact that he is a classless monster underneath it all and cannot possibly measure up to the aristocrat he yearns to be.
Mamoudaki Kalanik had no hope of greatness in life, the third child of a family of black ash gatherers. His birth was a miracle, if an unwanted one, as with all births near the Black Chase. Since death had permitted him to be, his family sold him back to it. Perhaps his mother thought it was a kindness of some sort, or maybe she selfishly hoped that a child raised as an apprentice in the Morticians’ Order might one day give her last rites she could otherwise never afford. Sijanese mothers are strange, and the Prince of Shadows has never cared enough to find out what became of his family. His upbringing in the Morticians’ Order was mostly a long montage of active abuse and passive neglect. But it was educational. He learned the proper honors for the dead of a thousand lands, as well as how to mix the sweet spices and unguents by which corpses might be preserved long after their souls had given up their haunting.
Most of all, Mamoudaki learned that life was cheap. His life. A king’s life. Butchers and saints and grand schemers all came to dust and rot in the end. To drive home the point, providence saw fit to afflict him with a fever when he stood a silent vigil his masters wouldn’t let him escape. They likely knew he was dying, but to them, he was a scrawny scamp with poor manners, a furtively distracted gaze and far too many questions. He would never amount to much, certainly not in life, and if death taught him manners, that might be a second chance. Perhaps they thought it was a kindness of some sort. So Mamoudaki died.
But that was not the end. In the moments when death was certain yet his body still flickered with warmth, the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears came upon him as a whispered obscenity to tickle his loins and draw cold finger- nails across his soul. Opening his eyes, he marveled at the jewels of raindrops catching the sputtering torchlight in this moment outside time. She offered him another chance to become a master of all the things that had mastered him. He could kill those who let him die, take those who raped him, appropriate everything from those who stole his future for their petty rites. He could learn the answers to his questions. Of course, he accepted.
At the Fortress of Crimson Ice, the Abyssal learned how to behave and how to pleasure lovers properly and how to make considerably more work for his former colleagues. As he did, he changed. His features stretched to predatory elegance, and the color drained from his flesh. With each lesson, more of Mamoudaki died, and something new, something greater came to stand in his place. The first compliment he received for his toils and absolute obedience was when the Lover finally called him her Prince of Shadows and kissed him full on the lips, feeding him a gasping exhalation of stolen souls that endowed him with a taste of her power.
The Lover’s kiss was a shocking gift, deemed utter folly by her peers, who feared that their new Abyssal pets might grow in power too quickly. But she knew her Prince was loyal and the kiss made him more so. He has never felt pleasure since that night, save in fading memory of it.
In pleasure’s absence, the deathknight’s learned to cherish other amusements. He threw himself into the art of torture with gusto. The screams of his victims’ became his music. That all things that hurt must die and fade away to silence saddens him, as the Neverborn alone possess the virtue of endless suffering. Only the Lover’s insistence that the Prince focus his attention on her has kept him from deepening his communion with the Whispers to exult in their pain. When the Sun dies and all is darkness, he’ll have eternity to perch besides the Labyrinthine temple tombs and listen to their music.