Full Name: Unknown
Feartigo stepped through the back-alley detritus. His raggedy presence was unsettling enough to an unwary onlooker, but it was his psychic broadcast of raw dread which sent a scrawny drug dealer counting his take fleeing into the night, money fluttering to the ground in his wake. Beneath his sack-cloth mask, Feartigo smiled his ruined-face smile.
He was here to provide an update, and his contact was always punctual. Why Sanguine chose to meet in a filthy alley amid the city’s grime was unclear. It was out of the way of prying eyes, that much was true, but it was not on the bloodsucker’s usual hunting trails. The squalor did not bother Feartigo, he just questioned it, wondering what Sanguine’s angle was. He had found that to succeed in his true mission he had to question every motive and trust no-one.
Feartigo’s mind flashed backwards to earlier times when his circumstances were far different. A minor Petro loa, he had been cast out, cursed to never again to be able to mount a human host. A disembodied spirit, his urges to violence and spread fear were held in check by his lack of physical form. Those responsible were powerful bokor, and eventually those sorcerers founded the Coven. Time drifted by almost without meaning for the spirit, a century, then two. All the while from the shadows between realms the loa watched the Coven grow. Decade blurred into decade as the secret society’s ranks swelled. In time their focus fell on a wretched city on the West Coast, which soon became their main base of operations.
The loa continued to observe. New players emerged, rising through the Coven hierarchy, competing for mastery of the inexorably strengthening cabal. The loa took interest in one such, Papa Zombie. The human was a potent practitioner of voodoo, but out of his depth compared to the true powers behind the Coven. The spirit sensed the human could be useful in some way. The loa followed his quarry through a portal when Papa Zombie was captured by agents of the Necroplane and taken to their blasted world. There the loa watched, unseen, as the Necroplane made plans for an insidious invasion, systematically replacing key figures from Pulp City and across the Earth with Hollow One simulacra, Papa Zombie among them. Seizing his chance, the loa mounted a mindless Hollow One – he could exist in the physical world once again.
What happened next was remarkable, even within that alien world. The once-inert creature’s features flowed like melted wax, before slowly taking greater definition. Within minutes he stood ready before surprised necro-scientists. Feartigo was born, the embodiment of dread once more. In that instant an idea struck him, a perfect strategy. He demanded to meet their master, as he had something to offer, a bargain to make, and his wish was granted.
The plan was simple. Sacrifice the Papa Zombie simulacra as a way to support and deflect away from Feartigo’s own infiltration of the Coven. Revealing a false agent and ‘freeing’ Papa Zombie would allow Feartigo to join the inner circle and rise above suspicion. The plan worked perfectly.
Feartigo’s thoughts returned to the present. Sanguine materialized, taking form from a coalescing crimson mist. These encounters were always fraught with danger. One slip or mistaken detail could be enough to betray him. But he was not afraid. He was the essence of fear.
Sanguine looked at Feartigo with narrowed eyes and a barely concealed aversion. The lead agent of the Necroplane on Earth had refined tastes, and had lived a high life until the invasion was thwarted three years earlier. His shadowy networks remained largely intact, and that made him the ideal handler of Feartigo. The vampire hissed a little as he acknowledged Feartigo.
“I don’t trust you,” began Sanguine, surprisingly candid, “But Tenebrous has placed stock in your operation, and you have delivered useful intelligence. So far.”
Sanguine’s claws lengthened an inch, glinting in the moonlight. Was he trying to provoke Feartigo? Was he following his own agenda? Feartigo did not flinch, making no move to betray himself or provoke action, even as Sanguine took a sudden step forward. He had to see how this concluded, and ensure his best possible outcome. After a long pause, tension ebbed away as Sanguine adopted a more nonchalant pose. Feartigo pondered if he was testing him, and could only assume he had passed.
Feartigo’s loyalties were not to the Necroplane, that affiliation was simply a convenience. Those who had cast him out were long gone from the Coven, and there was no vengeance to be had. His infiltration had allowed him to swiftly rise within the ranks of the organization, aligning him to the Saints. Mastery of the cabal which had ultimately cast him out could be within his grasp. Obstacles remained, but with the correct choices, they too could be removed. Unknowing rivals such as Vendredi and the true Papa Zombie could be dealt with. The vessel of his past downfall could prove to be his true ascent, beyond the confines of the loa pantheon. Vast power could be Feartigo’s, he just had to act carefully and bide his time. They would not see him coming.
Full Name: Eric Goulding
For Eric Goulding, business was business and the most serious matter in the world. Money was power and he had plenty of both. He felt he was unstoppable, then he was diagnosed with cancer and everything changed. All of Eric’s money and power could not avail him. Awaking that first morning after the diagnosis and recognizing he had no more than sixty days remaining, he realized he didn’t care about his money, now he cared only for survival.
The bittersweet irony of it all was that Eric had considered a career in medicine before embarking on the path he followed. He was caught off guard, because a healthy, fit man in his prime with a disciplined lifestyle worthy of a Tibetan monk was not supposed to go down with lumps on his right lung.
By the end of the first day after his diagnosis, Eric’s finger was sore from dialing those university friends who had become oncologists. By the end of the week, his body was weak from the chemicals and the radiation that seemed to be the only treatment option for his aggressive condition. Processions of lawyers, priests and family stampeded through his hospital room. Each of them tried to mediate a peace between him, the Maker, the IRS and other nameless powers, each wanting part of Eric’s temporal influence.
Desperate, Eric reached out to less savory acquaintances. Connections were made and Eric soon had a caller. A peculiar and twitchy man, he came carrying a bundle of ancient scrolls. The odd little man promised Eric that the texts stated that he could cheat death, and have all the riches of Midas if he asked the right question when his time came. The strange man offered this in exchange for half Eric’s wealth and unfurled a lengthy contract. Eric gambled as he had nothing to lose, signing away half his fortune for the promise of extended life and greater wealth. Then the man was gone.
When at last the ward finally fell quiet, Eric’s final visitor appeared, embodying life’s last expectations. Eric was disappointed in how clichéd the moment felt. The visitor’s bony, pallid face was unmoving, but he heard the black silhouette say “Eric Goulding, you must come with me. It is time.”
Eric followed as instructed, and they walked a near-endless hospital corridor until eventually the walls became transparent. The luminescent ceiling arched like a gothic cathedral, as a pitch black portal appeared in front of them.
“Once you go through, there is no turning back,” the ghastly guide whispered.
“Do I have to?” Eric asked as a final jolt of fear shot through his body. It was the question the texts had decreed could change his final path.
“No. There are other doorways.”
The dying man was shocked, despite what he had learned, and after a momentary hesitation replied, “Wait, if there are other options, then why do people choose to die?”
“They do not ask the question. No matter what you choose today, you must live with the consequences of your decision.”
Six other portals appeared, or maybe they had been there from the beginning and Eric had not observed them. Eric felt that the one made from golden shimmering light was the one he must pass through. “What’s behind this one?” he asked.
“An eternity of prosperity, endless knowledge, and immortality. It comes at a price; you will never feel again.”
“Worth a try, I guess, let’s do it,” said Eric firmly.
“Are you certain?” the apparition asked. Before Eric could reply or react, the Reaper reached forth and plucked out his heart, replacing it with a cold stone. The wound sealed with a thick layer of liquid metal, but it did not hurt. The gleaming solution rolled through his veins until it filled his eyes with gold.
“This stone belonged to the greatest alchemists of the world and now it is mine. I am wiser than I ever was, yet that doesn’t excite me. I stand at the threshold of a new era and endless life and yet I am already bored. I see the tradeoff. I will embrace it and find ways to enjoy my life again, and new domains will bend to my will. I will have my gold, and I will have all of my wealth returned and more,” said Eric, his words betrayed by a lack of emotion.
Eric looked behind him and saw another Reaper leading a recently departed.
“Am I dead?” asked the newly arrived man. Eric grabbed the questioner with a golden fist and effortlessly shoved him into the black portal he himself had disregarded.
“We can make that assumption now. Please tell them Aurelius sent you.”
Full Name: Red Bella
Faction: Ape Revolution Committee (A.R.C.)
Red Bella’s journey to Pulp City was long and strange. One of five primates who survived the crash of Module 2, Red Bella awoke alone amid wreckage in the mountains of China. Desperately searching for her crew-mates, she stumbled delirious for days before finally collapsing outside an ancient temple. There she was found by an unusual group of monks, and with them a band of academics who called themselves the Midnight Scholars, and with them the remnants of her crew.
Red Bella quickly learned that the Midnight Scholars were a secret international society of academics and scientists researching occult history. Well-funded and supported by old money from Europe, they sought to unearth ancient artifacts of power and preserve them to ensure the world’s safety. With the monks, they nursed the injured Bella to health and explained their purpose. Bella absorbed lore and history like a sponge, eagerly asking questions. After a few months the team was ready to move on. A voice deep within Bella told her that her place was with them for now. She and the other primates from Module 2 all agreed to travel with the Scholars.
The monks of the mountain promised Bella that the debris from her craft and the knowledge of the survivors would be protected. They and the Midnight Scholars concluded that it was dangerous information better left on the mountain. With solemn vows a pact was made, and the company departed for Hong Kong. The inner voice, which was not her own, commended her decision.
Over the next couple of years, the adaptable Bella learned to read, write and speak a dozen more languages. Her own research helped uncover lost artifacts including the Wyrd Colt, once carried by an American adventurer who travelled to China. Her expeditions and exploits earned her the trust of Hong Kong’s own Supreme Iron Cloud. Iron Cloud soared through the skies using a jetpack he himself had designed and battled injustice, a popular local Hero. He trained Bella in the use of the bullwhip, and listening to the Midnight Scholars’ concerns he joined their party. Despite Bella’s newly acquired skills, her recent accomplishments were not what she was truly seeking, simply a means to an end. Her passion, and soon her obsession, greater than that of her simian companions, became the great Hanuman, the Monkey King – a being she now believed spoke to her and had guided her to the temple and her journey.
Finally, after years of searching the globe, Bella uncovered what she believed to be Hanuman’s temple, hidden high in the Himalayas. She returned to Hong Kong to consult with her allies in the Scholars and plan her expedition.
Unbeknownst to Bella, her tomb raiding exploits had brought her to the attention of the Green Emperor. Realizing the danger that the Midnight Scholars represented to his own plans, he unleashed his greatest assassins. Upon returning to the Midnight Scholar’s quarters Bella found nothing but death, and even the mighty Iron Cloud could not stand against the Emperors’ fury. Of her remaining simian companions, she found no trace.
Bella fled the scene, grabbing as much as she could, including Iron Cloud’s jetpack. Soon arriving in the lower reaches of the Himalayas, many days of climbing frigid peaks followed, as she wanted to preserve what fuel remained in her flying device. The very air seemed to confound Bella, many times she found herself going in circles. She persevered despite the setbacks, the cold, and the blinding snow. Her food supply was almost exhausted, and she was convinced something stalked her. Bella found peculiar footprints that matched nothing she had ever seen or heard of. Noises split the night; yowling singing that chased her even in her dreams. Tormented day and night, she refused to turn back.
Then Bella heard the voice again. She followed it even when it urged her to walk places that seemed unsafe. She took leaps of faith again and again. In a deep ravine near the summit she at last found what she sought. The temple was nothing more than a shallow cave with a simple dulled-brass idol, set with glowing red rubies. The idol was strangely warm to the touch and free of ice and snow. The gems glowed brighter as she approached and the inner voice rang out stronger than ever.
The voice sounded clear in her head and as she reached for the idol it seemed to reach for her. They embraced like long-separated mother and child. In that moment Bella saw visions of great and terrible things. She knew that a larger destiny lay in store for her and the other Awakened. And then the Yeti struck. Appearing out of the snow like a giant terrible phantasm, it struck Bella down and dragged her to the Green Emperor.
Bella endured months of torture before Chimp Chi found and freed her, returning her gear. Never though had she despaired, never was she broken, for she had found the Ruby Idol and awoken the Primates of Power. She, Bella, had opened the door to save her kind. Now all she had to do was get the others to listen. How hard could that be?
Full Name: None
A nerve-shaking roar chased Trail down a deserted street. He knew he had to keep moving. If that prehistoric animal caught up with him he knew he was done for. The screams had pretty much died down now, and any remaining civilians were lying low or beyond help.
Trail ducked into a dark alley and took a moment to bandage his bleeding leg. He worked quickly, shredding his cloak to use as a dressing. Where was Dead Eye when you needed him? The big jock had really gotten him into one hell of a mess.
To be fair, Trail could have said no, but when Dead Eye called, you tended to answer. It should have been fine. 100 Voices and his lackeys were usually a tough proposition, but nothing they could not handle. While a few of them had shown some resistance to his Trailblazing techniques, there were always a few idiots in the horrible crew Voices frequently surrounded himself with. Dead Eye had assembled a good team too; first class Supremes with a reputation for getting the job done. None of them had been prepared for what awaited them.
The new Supreme they faced was a giant tower of muscle and rage that flung cars and people around like toys. This alone was not a big deal. Trail had fought more Monsters than most people had seen during the Fall. He was a veteran, a hardened Hero of Pulp City. He knew better than most that physical might alone did not win every fight. But something about this new Supreme its allies called ‘Cro Mag’, had unsettled him more than anything else he had ever encountered. It was not the way it charged headlong into battle, or the terrible roars that echoed through the chaos, or even the pungent smell of blood and death that clung to it. No, there was something primal, violent and raw about it. This Cro Mag was the living avatar of mankind’s most savage and bloodthirsty id. He should know, for he had been in its head. Just briefly. Just a glimpse behind the savage exterior into the pure rage and desire that drove this thing. His most advanced Trailblazing techniques skidding off an armor of pure violent hatred. He had recoiled from that mind. So distant from rational thought, beyond even the primitive drives of Kodo Island’s inhabitants.
Things had fallen apart after his attempt to control the raging brute. The team scattered before Cro Mag’s charge. Driving forward, howling and flinging friend and foe around while the demonic Voicelings struck at them from the shadows. He watched the beast throw Stone Hawk through a building like ragdoll. That was when Trail ran, and Cro Mag had chased him. Trail was nearly crushed by a car thrown at him, but had managed to escape momentarily with nothing more than a gashed leg.
Focusing on the here and now, Trail dropped his cloak to the ground; it would only slow him down. The sound of crumpled steel and broken glass drove him forward down the alley. Cro Mag was coming. Trail limped on, his heart pounding as another roar split the night and chased him down the filthy black passage. Ahead something loomed out of the darkness. Rosie! She was panting and bleeding but Trail had never seen a more wonderful sight. Dead Eye stood beside her. His cybernetic arm crushed and mangled, he too looked ready to drop, but determined to fight.
Cro Mag appeared somewhere behind Trail, blocking what feeble light there was. The massive creature’s ragged horrible breathing was magnified in the narrow passage. Rosie hefted a steel girder like a baseball bat. Dead Eye said something to her, some last-ditch plan no doubt. Cro Mag did not wait, it roared out his rage and defiance. Rosie screamed and charged for it. The alley was filled with the sounds of bellowing titans. Trail leapt into Rosie’s mind, triggered her rage and endorphins to maximum levels, trying to give her every possible advantage. Would it be enough?
Full Name: unknown
Pulp City, three years ago.
A small band of terrified citizens ran through the night-shrouded streets of Twilight Hills. Behind them the relentless clank-clud of heavy steps – they could not outpace the dreadful creature that pursued them.
In the distance, strange sounds rang out as energy crackled, briefly lighting up the darkened sky. All street lights in the area were out, and the din of battle echoed all around. War had come to Pulp City, and the Hills were its beachhead.
The group ran on and on. They passed other bystanders who cowered in stores along the main street. They ran on, and finally turned into a blind alley, stopping suddenly as they realized all was surely lost.
Within the creature’s form, life-energy rippled beneath a polymer-sheath, barely contained as souls fought against their imprisonment. The trapped souls could be seen, bidding to be free, stretching at the transparent shroud. The shackles of Necroplane technology were too strong, and those poor souls were slowly being burned up as fuel for the hulking brute, a simple-minded mix of resurrected tissue and necro-tech enhancements, powered by life-energy convertors.
The massive beast lashed out at the huddled civilians, powerful pistons driving its arm, smashing one unfortunate away like a rag-doll, and sucking the life out of the corpse as it flew through the air. The cowering people screamed and begged for mercy. The Necro-tech behemoth raised a mighty arm to attack another defenseless victim when suddenly it was knocked aside by a shovel swung by mighty limbs. Mercy had arrived as a figure loomed large, almost as big and almost as terrifying as the mechanical monstrosity which threatened them. An incongruous grin played out on the newcomer’s face.
“Get out of here folks, we got this,” said the giant in as friendly manner as he could muster. Behind him stood a small, stocky figure, armored, and laden with a hefty backpack while holding a mighty hammer in a single iron grip.
The big guy with the shovel proceeded to smash at the beast that had threatened the small group, aided by his diminutive companion. Slowly the two Supremes pushed back the infernal beast, giving the hapless Twilight Hills residents time to flee.
“It’s going to be a long night. This is the third Soul Golem we have seen so far,” said the more powerfully built rescuer. He gripped his shovel tightly before aiming for another herculean blow.
“Yes it will be. Now, less talking young ‘un, and more smashing,” said his smaller ally as his crushing hammer was swung toward the mechanical beast.
Soul Golems are among the greatest battlefield war engines at the disposal Dr. Tenebrous’ forces. Whenever a Soul Golem is deployed, death and destruction follows. There is nothing precise about their use; they have one purpose only, to ensure victory for the Necroplane.
Full Name: Chiyoko
Faction: Jade Cult, The Way
Twenty Years Ago
“Again,” barked the Ninja Sensei. At his command a young Japanese girl of five years of age slapped her hand against water sitting in a large simple wooden bowl.
The two were the only figures in the main courtyard of a vast temple set high into a remote mountainside. The air was cold and bit at the girl’s tender skin, but she made no complaint as she diligently undertook her training.
Water was displaced with each slap as she struck, and when the bowl became empty she was instructed with the same single word ‘again’ to refill it and start over once more, this time slapping the water with her other hand.
The girl did what she was told because it was what her father wanted, and father’s will was all she had ever known.
Thirteen Years Ago
The girl, now on the cusp of adolescence, but having lived a childhood hard like no other, knelt before a sack of cold, wet sand. She had carried it up the side of the bleak and forbidding mountain as her Sensei had ordered. She had been instructed to creep undetected into the village below, escaping with her worthless prize. Shadows embraced her as she did as she had been told. Without any words of protest she clambered up the mountain with her heavy burden, slowly ascending step after painful step, as icy winds lashed at her slender body.
Returned to the citadel, she knelt before her prize and at a single nod from her Sensei began to rhythmically and repetitively punch the sand, over and over, right then left, then right, then left, until she could no longer count the blows and her knuckles bled, and she continued despite her pain and beckoning exhaustion.
Her task was what her father wanted, so she carried on without question.
She was poised, her lithe frame ready for what she faced. A dozen ninjas stood motionless before her, each waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Each had failed the Jade Cult in some way, so each had failed the Green Emperor. Redemption could be claimed by one of their number if he or she slew the Emperor’s daughter. Her task in turn was to slay them all. She was he father’s daughter, and without mercy or hesitation she completed her bloody task, stepping silently through shadows to effortlessly kill the doomed cadre, as her father demanded.
Her father was different now, reborn but still the Green Emperor. His demeanour was changed, and the Oni Queen had gained his favour, sitting at his right hand. He had gathered new recruits with talents to compete with hers, and worse than that, there was the dog he had bequeathed the title Shadow Mask to.
She had dutifully followed his instructions, establishing a headquarters in Pulp City to suit his plans. But while she was her father’s daughter, he had changed. And so had she. Amid a brutal and brutalised childhood, she had slowly earned her father’s respect. This Green Emperor was different. She did not command the same respect from her new ‘father’. The cycle had been changed. Her position had changed. And with that she knew his power could become hers. She would one day become the Green Empress.
Full Name: Eddy Patrick
Faction: Blood Watch
Aroostook County, Maine, a rotting farmhouse. The giant rambling building was overgrown with ivy and lit up by flashes of lightning splitting the purple-black sky. Its ancient decaying form sat alone amongst vast sprawling fields and gently rolling hills.
Standing defiantly against cold driving rain, members of the Blood Watch looked on at the forbidding house before them. For those gathered Supremes, the house was a festering sore in this Maine hinterland. Waiting for V.H.’s signal, Six Feet Under slapped the shaft of his shovel into his left hand, and Blacksmith tightened his grip on his mighty hammer. Ace cocked his pistol in readiness. Moon Coyote loped around behind them, scanning a route to encircle the house, and Blood Rose prepared her mind to transport her Team-mates to their quarry.
What followed was bloody and brutal. The supernatural Supremes stormed the house. Immediately they found what they had sought – a nest of vampires! However the number of blood-suckers surpassed what their intelligence had indicated. From every room poured their enemies, vampires of every type: Carpathians, nosferatu, dhampir, jiangshi, strzyga and countless other variations. This was more than a mere nest, it was a conclave.
No quarter was given. As one undead fell to the Heroes, another flew forward, their forms turning to dust, ashes or flame as each was vanquished without hesitation. Slowly but surely, the Blood Watch turned the tide back, their wounds healed by Blood Rose as they fought relentlessly.
With dawn approaching, the Heroes had to corner the last of the undead to stop them escaping. One by one those who remained were dispatched until just a few were left, trapped in the dimly lit cellar beneath the house. Blacksmith, Ace and V.H. cautiously made their way down the wooden stairs, too narrow to accommodate Six Feet Under’s bulk.
Two hissing clawed fiends who leapt from the gloom were dispatched with sword and ghostly bullets. Blacksmith then noticed a flicker of movement. He pointed to the back of the dank chamber where there was a stack of coffins. The three advanced, ready for any threat.
As they approached they could hear a faint mewling, a fearful whimper.
Blacksmith smashed the coffins aside with a powerful swing of him hammer. Of all the things he and his allies expected to see, it was not the sight in front of them. A child-like vampire, looking no more than seven years old, terror in his eyes as the three Supremes towered over him. Ace of Wraiths cocked his pistol and Blacksmith drew back his hammer to bring it down in one fatal blow.
“No,” said V.H. firmly, her tone brooking no challenge, “This child will not go the way of the rest. We had a responsibility to vanquish their evil, and we have. This one is a legacy of that darkness, but we can give him a chance to escape that fate. We take him with us.”
Ace and Blacksmith looked on, surprised and concern battling within both of them as V.H. reached out to the youngling, picking him up as he wrapped his arms around her neck.
Is evil born or is it made? Is a 5-year old with vampiric powers a threat or a responsibility? The Blood Watch chose to believe the latter. Unable to slay the young vampire, V.H. believes that if brought up and supervised properly, Youngblood will add much-needed survivability and strength to the Team’s repertoire.
What nobody says out loud however, is that if Youngblood’s powers and hunger are only supernaturally suppressed by one of Blacksmith’s talismans. What happens if that is not enough? The Blood Watch observes carefully, as Youngblood has begun to mature physically and psychologically, his deathless lack of aging suppressed partly by the artefact he now carries with him.
Full Name: Warlock Faustibal
Under shroud of darkness, several cautious figures crept through a yard full of wreckage. Flanked by hand-picked body-guards and two Necro-Servitors, Sanguine picked carefully among the stacks of decommissioned trains and twisted metal that was the railway graveyard of Royal Investments. Something remarkable had occurred there a week earlier, and his Necroplane master wanted to know what lay behind it.
Sanguine sniffed the air, supernatural senses keenly attuned to his surroundings. The yard was clear; he could clearly discern that above the odors of rusting metal and oil. The facility guards had made themselves scarce tonight as instructed after the shooting incident several days earlier. Shots had been fired at a desperate man, yet no body was found. All that was told to the PCPD detectives who responded was that the guards had scared off an intruder, a thief deterred by flying lead. However it was clear that there was a much deeper mystery afoot.
The smell of dried blood carried on warm air to the vampire, its coppery taste like a beacon through the night. Caution abandoned, Sanguine strode forward. In the heart of the mass of derelict metal he found the broken hull of a train marked with the name-plate emblazoned with ‘Francesca’. This was it, he knew without doubt.
Sanguine ran his fingers across the place where the blood had dried on the hull. There was a rent here in the side of the engine, as if metal had been torn free by some inhuman force. Something magickal had happened here, something that could potentially be twisted to the will of Tenebrous. He set the Necro-Servitors to work while his body-guards kept watch.
A year later, deep in a Necroplane citadel. A storm of purple lightning raged outside.
Screams echoed all around a dark chamber lit only by sporadic green light emanating from equipment scattered around the room, casting an eerie glow on proceedings.
At the heart of the room was a gurney tilted to a forty-five degree angle, and strapped to it a bizarre amalgamation of man and machine. The man in question, what was left of him, screamed out in pain once more, before at last his spark of what passed for life in the Necroplane finally gave out.
Looking on, Dr. Tenebrous pondered for a moment then signaled to a Necro-Servitor to remove the equipment that had been fused to the dead man. A whirling blade did just as commanded with speed and surgical precision. Another Necro-Servitor carefully and thoroughly washed bodily fluids from the operating table.
“Next subject,” commanded the lord of the Necroplane, inpatient for this experiment to succeed.
“Subject seventeen, proceed. Warlock Faustibal. The warlock has undertaken all the required rites and undergone blood-cleansing. The subject is ready,” intoned an emotionless Necro-Servitor.
Tenebrous locked his gaze with the warlock. Like the magician’s entire ilk, he was ambitious, yet in this one the fires of ambition raged brighter than any Tenebrous had encountered before. A sinister smile played across Tenebrous’ thin lips.
The warlock was carefully strapped onto the surgical table. He knew what was coming. There would be no analgesic for this procedure as the subject needed to be brought to what passed for death in the Necroplane for the experiment to succeed. He let out no scream as the first saw blade tore into his flesh.
Hours later, Tenebrous stood satisfied, as he glanced upon his latest creation. A towering mix of blackened-iron and once-living being was before him. The last energies of the warlock would be siphoned into the armor to sustain it, for how long was not yet certain. However, what mattered most was what now remained; a powerful fusion of near-lifeless husk and magick-imbued metal.
“I call you Doom Train, and in you there is great potential now as you serve me,” said Dr. Tenebrous as he let out a malevolent laugh. Those fools in Earth’s Heavy Metal had worked to foil his plans, but little did they suspect that the power one of their own would be turned against them.
Full names: unknown
Fragments of fears frantically bolted across the desolate Plain of Nightmares, splintered echoes of tormented dreams from worlds beyond the Necroplane.
As they cascaded across dank lands, those wretched imaginings were corralled by nightmare herders, their task to catch all the dark dreams that coalesced into the Necroplane from other worlds, and then to feed them to the armies of the dead. Principal among the herders was Night Fright, an agent of the Necroplane whose murky origins are lost to himself, like a dream forgotten.
The herders are not simple plains farmers of dark dreams; no, they are skilled gatherers of the dark stuff of souls. This soul fuel is used to empower the armies of the Necroplane. Hulking Soul Golems are fed dozens of those shadowy eidolons, their outer shell of necro-mechanical armor and their peculiar necro-dermis shackling the tormented shards of unwitting psyches. Necro G.I.’s armed with weapons powered by the dark dreams. And worst of all, the Supremes of the Necroplane drink in the misery and pain.
It is the task and twisted honor of the nightmare herders to gather fuel for the armies of the Necroplane, and foremost among them is Night Fright. It was he that had already drawn out more of the slivers of abject imagination than any other, and it was he that Dr. Tenebrous frequently dispatched to worlds targeted by the Necroplane to sow greater terror and thus feed their world ever more.
Interlude 1: A distant memory, like watching faded impressions of someone else’s life. Images come unbidden to Night Fright’s mind, of a world other than the Necroplane. Earth? War rages across a city; an invasion by the Scourge and the legions of the Necroplane? In the heat of battle he is in a grassy park full of stone and bronze memorials, and there he faces an oncoming tide of dead soldiers…
The herders of the Necroplane ride the wastes aboard brutal Nightmare Engines, crafted when dark dreams become so powerful that they lead to the death of their hosts. Called paradigm nightmares by the Necroplane, those dreams take distinct form in the Necroplane, and seek to re-enter other planes of reality, to afflict the tortured dreams of yet more hosts.
The most powerful paradigm nightmares are transformed into Nightmare Engines when they are shackled in carapaces manufactured by necro-scientists. Powerful jets are mounted to their bodies and nightmares their fuel. Although bound by death-force technologies, Nightmare Engines are unruly creatures, needing a strong master to break them and keep them under control, and Leech required the most cunning and determined of riders to be kept in check.
The dark rider known as Night Fright had seemingly managed to contain the untamable; Leech was the most aggressive of Nightmare Engines, and before being claimed by Night Fright he had disposed of at least half a dozen herders, and had consumed the lives of countless dream-hosts. When the duo met, they knew instinctively that together they could bring greater pain to every world that the Lords of the Necroplane turned their gaze towards. Where other Nightmare Engines were mastered, Leech was Night Fright’s equal. Together they formed a whole greater than their individual parts, and in this Dr. Tenebrous in particular was pleased.
Interlude 2: Betrayal. An ally, a trusted friend, has warned the invaders. Twisted machines fly forth from the advancing horde, maniacal, leering deathly riders precariously riding those contraptions like twisted demented surf-boards splitting the sky with lopping arcs. They fly towards him. His companions are terror-struck and transfixed. One of the flying metal machines strikes him with incredible force and then blackness follows…
In a vast citadel, the Scourge gathered. Mourn swooped above his team-mates, eager to sow screaming terror; a Soul Golem lumbered into position; Supreme Zed crashed heavily to ground. Portal devices were put into operation, and on the other side awaited Sanguine, the Necroplane’s Earth-spawned agent. Necro G.I.’s lurked in readiness, and canisters of zombie plague toxins were ready to convert some of the indigenous population into instant Necroplane agents of war.
Night Fright gently eased Leech into a turn towards the primary portal. They were both ready to feast on the horrors in the souls of any unfortunates whose paths crossed their own. Yet somewhere deep down, Night Fright could not escape the feeling he had experienced something very much like this once before.