The following is a piece whose purpose I have yet to decide. I had planned at one point to slip the Insidious into Book Three of Tales from the Green and I still might, but with everything else I have planned it might make the story a bit too crowded. If anything it works as a great concept piece for the Insidious. In fact everything up until the point where my loveable villian Ishari enters can be used pretty much anywhere without many changes. Only time will tell if this ever finds a place in the greater story.
In the Green, though by and large a peaceful and wholesome realm, there are some places that are best avoided. Primary in the mind of most is the Churning Pit, s swirling morass of mud and refuse where the Dreaded Plog lies sleeping. Secondary to that is the lair of the dragon Ssvalith, secondary only because none truly knows where it lies and it is a well known fact that the beast still suffers from wounds inflicted by the False Hero two centuries ago and is therefore unable to leave. However, there is another place, a place spoken of only in whispers and dreamt about in the darkest of dreams. Beneath the twisted paths and shadowy boughs of the Valley of Twilight, the Dungeons of the Insidious lie buried.
The Insidious hold the auspicious title of being the most ancient evil to inhabit the Green. Since time immemorial they have schemed and plotted in their gloom filled halls, eagerly waiting for the day when they would rise as the true masters of the Eternal Forest. So skilled are they in the arts of illusion and subterfuge none have ever seen their true form. In fact, so secretive and conniving are they that not even the Insidious themselves remember if they are of the same race or a collection of like-minded evil souls united in vile purpose. Anyone who has ever seen one of these grim beings only recall dark hoods and macabre masks, if indeed they saw anything at all of their passing beyond a general darkening and sense of gloom. Whatever they were and whatever they were up to, one thing for certain was that to enter their Dungeons was to know endless torment.
On this day the Council of Despair did possibly meet in what could have been the deepest hall of the Dungeons. This clandestine group may or may not have been the chief governing body of the Insidious, perhaps composed of their most powerful members unless of course they were merely the puppets of the true masters, who were most likely puppets themselves. An unknown number met here on supposedly random days to not plan and coordinate current and future evil deeds, or at least that was the outward appearance they purported to maintain. In sinister voices they spoke of the weather and flowers and of the latest social gatherings of the local moon sprites, though it was obvious that this talk was merely code for more dire messages, unless that itself was merely a ruse to throw off spies from within their ranks. There were always spies, excepting the possibility that the rumor of spies had been intentionally planted by their enemies to throw them off. After all, that is what they would have done had the tables been turned, and who was to say that the tables weren’t turning even as they spoke? Were there even tables at all?
It was into the middle of this confusing gathering that the sorcerer Ishari appeared, his gold embroidered crimson robes standing out sharply in contrast to the unrelenting black of the Insidious. Few could pierce the barriers erected against such magical intrusion into the Dungeon, or so the Insidious thought. In reality it had been quite easy, as these barriers were taken down several times a day as the Insidious continually plotted against each other. Or maybe they just wanted people to think that there were barriers. Regardless, cowls and masks turned to glare at the unwelcome intruder, except for those who ignored him for the obvious illusion that he must surely be.
“Ishari,” said one (who could tell which?) in a grating whisper. “We knew you would come.”
“No, I’m fairly certain that you didn’t,” answered the elf sorcerer.
“Oh, but we did.”
“Whatever you say,” Ishari relented, eager to be done with this insufferable task.
“I never said anything of the sort,” answered another Insidious, although it could have been the first speaker disguising his or her voice.
“Listen, I’m not here to argue over…”
“Argue?” another voice cackled with overly enthusiastic glee. “I would never argue with an old friend such as you, dear Ishari.”
“Ha! You speak as if he is your ally,” scoffed someone.
“The two of us plan your doom nightly,” replied nobody in particular.
This last came from Ishari, who had already grown more than tired of the intricately twisted paths of Insidious politics. They were worse than gnomes! He extended his left hand, a hand so black that it stood out as a void in the dimness of the Dungeon, and through it he let flow a fraction of the power Ssvalith had gifted him with. The walls shook, raining down dust and cobwebs as the fury of the ancient dragon coursed through the room, and for once the Insidious were united in a common emotion: fear.
“How might we be of service to you, oh great master?” they groveled, though surely some only pretended to grovel in order to gain the upper hand.
“That is more like it,” Ishari said calmly. “Knowing that it is pointless to try to get anything useful from you cretins, I have come only to say this: there is a human child in the Green, a boy by the name of Alex Samuels. Do with this information as you will.”
Wanting nothing else to do with the sinister yet largely incompetent creatures, Ishari whisked himself to friendlier locales with a spell, leaving the Insidious to ponder what they had been told.
“I must go now…to feed my cat,” said one, who slunk away into the shadows, devilish plans already whirling behind his sinister mask.
“I also must go…to feed his cat,” said another, and one by one each departed, each planning a way to use this new information to his own advantage.
Several miles away, on a sunny hilltop overlooking the grim Valley of Twilight, Ishari brushed the last few specks of cave dirt from his robes. He had kicked the anthill, so to speak, and no matter what the Insidious ultimately did they would undoubtedly serve as a distraction and a hindrance to the young boy who had been so much trouble as of late. Alex must be kept off balance, so Ishari had been told, and when Ssvalith spoke the elf had little choice but to listen. He looked at his hand, the one the dragon had crafted for him out of black fire, and not for the first time wondered whether it was a gift or a shackle.
“Isen,” he spoke aloud to the empty air. “How goes the preparations?”
“We lay in wait beneath the Daggerspine foothills,” squawked a horrible voice in response, Ssvalith’s warlord answering through the magic of Ishari’s spell of clairaudience. “We can attack at any time.”
“I will be there at once,” the elf answered, and with a word he had vanished from sight once more. The time for Ssvalith’s reemergence was close at hand, and there was much to do.