“Look at this place!” the Grave Keeper exclaimed, spreading his arms for emphasis. “The dark towers—the haunting smoke—why, it even has a large underground tunnel that allows you to move around unseen. What do you think, McReedy?”
“I don’t know, boss,” the diminutive peasant replied, scratching his head. “It actually looks a bit spooky to me, and I’m not quite sure about the location.”
“Nonsense!” the Grave Keeper declared firmly. “This is prime real estate, unlike those dreadful Mines.” The cloaked figure shuddered at the mention of his former home. “No, this is where we’re going to live.”
“But, Sir…” McReedy protested.
“Now, I think I’ll have my Grave Golems build a statue of me here,” the Grave Keeper mused, ignoring his servant, “And then I’ll scatter some bones on the ground other there, to give the place a homey look…”
“But, Sir…” the peasant tried again.
“And of course, we’ll want to clear away those trees so we can get a couple lanes going. After all, nothing spruces a place up like a few good lanes.”
“And then we could build a fort or two, and…”
“What is it, McReedy?” the Grave Keeper asked, turning to his assistant in frustration. “Why do you keep interrupting me?”
“Because, sir, you’re forgetting a very important detail,” McReedy replied, cowering before his master’s indignation. “This is Raven Court.”
“So?” the cloaked figure asked, unsure what this information had to do with anything. “The Mines were in Raven Court, too, and that wasn’t a problem.”
“Well, yes,” McReedy admitted. “But the Mines were near the border, and—to be completely honest—they weren’t that interesting. This place, however, could be considered desirable, so that means…”
“It means that it’s already been claimed,” a new voice broke in. “By me.” Turning in surprise, the Grave Keeper and his servant beheld a mysterious stranger clad in a cloak of black feathers.
“The Raven Lord,” the Grave Keeper snarled, his voice seething with rage. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have a Hollow to attend to?”
“I could ask you the same thing, Grave Keeper,” the Raven Lord replied, his voice calm but threatening. “What, did you get tired of your Mines? Oh, wait, I forgot—they don’t even exist anymore.”
The Grave Keeper grimaced, remembering the terrible storm that had torn through the Nexus and ripped the Mines—his Mines—out of the world and hurled them into oblivion. The Grave Keeper and McReedy had survived the storm, but now they were homeless (which is why they were looking at real estate in the first place).
“I may have lost my Mines,” the Grave Keeper growled, “But this place—these Towers of Doom—will belong to me!”
“Please, don’t make me laugh,” the Raven Lord replied with a dark smile. “This is part of Raven Court. Naturally, it belongs to me. Now please, get out of here—I need this area cleared so my men can begin setting up my fortifications.”
“Sir,” McReedy whispered, tugging on his cloaked master’s sleeve. “We should go. I’m sure there are plenty of other places we could…”
“No!” the Grave Keeper exclaimed, pulling his arm free from the peasant’s grasp. “The Raven Lord has already cheated me out of so much—I will not let him take this from me as well!”
Reaching into his cloak, the Grave Keeper withdrew an intimidating black scythe and held it at the ready. “Now, Raven Lord, I’ll give you one chance to leave my new home, or else I’ll kill you!”
“So much bluster,” the Raven Lord chuckled, withdrawing a massive broadsword from beneath his feathery cape. “Let’s see if you can back it up.”
Roaring, the Grave Keeper leapt at his foe, swinging the scythe in a wide arc. Raising his sword, the Raven Lord easily deflected the wild slash before lunging forward with a devastating strike of his own.
Caught off balance, the Grave Keeper failed to dodge in time, and the sword sliced through his cloak and into the dark figure’s side. Crying out in pain, the Grave Keeper swung his scythe again, and again, the Raven Lord deflected the blow.
“Please,” the feathery-cloaked swordsman laughed, shoving the Grave Keeper’s weapon to the side, “You know I’m the best duelist in the entirety of Raven Court. Do you honestly think you can beat me in a fight like this?”
“No,” the Grave Keeper hissed, spitting out a gob of black ichor, “I’m just keeping you distracted.”
“What…” the Raven Lord began, but then he was interrupted as a fist the size of a small house slammed into the back of his head. With a pained grunt, the Raven Lord crashed to the ground, stunned by the powerful blow.
“Good work, Graves,” the shadowy Grave Keeper said, looking up at the monster of wood and bone that had defeated the Raven Lord. “I knew I could count on your help. Now, all we have to do is dispose of this body, and everything will be just fine.”
Turning, the Grave Keeper began to walk off…but he was stopped by the sound of a massive explosion, followed shortly afterward by a cry of pain. Spinning back around, the cloaked man’s jaw dropped in horror, as he witnessed the shattered pieces of his once-powerful Grave Golem.
“That was quite clever, actually,” the Raven Lord chuckled, rising to his feet. “Distracting me long enough for your pet to get in a blow or two. Still, you really should have finished the job yourself—after all, Grave Golems are quite susceptible to a well-timed curse.”
“You…you…monster!” the Grave Keeper roared. “I’ll kill you!” Raising his scythe once more, the shadowy warrior swung his scythe at the Raven Lord in an effort to decapitate his opponent. Startled, the feather-clad nobleman nearly failed to block the devastating strike, only bringing his sword up at the last possible second.
For several moments, the two combatants struggled with each other, pushing with all their might in an attempt to break the deadlock. “Back down, fool,” the Raven Lord hissed through clenched teeth, “And I might still let you live.”
“No chance,” the Grave Keeper shot back, “In fact, I think you’re the one who needs to surrender!” Shoving the Raven Lord back with a mighty push, the Grave Keeper raised his weapon in preparation for a devastating smash. Before he could finish the attack, however, a new voice broke in.
“Everyone, stop!” the wheezing voice proclaimed, “Please, before someone gets hurt!” Confused by this interruption, the combatants turned to see McReedy standing there, hands outstretched in supplication.
“What is it, McReedy?” the Grave Keeper asked, angered by the interruption, “I’m in the process of slaying this cretin!”
“Um, Sir,” the peasant replied, “You should probably look down.” Confused, the Grave Keeper did as the peasant was saying—and saw with surprise that the Raven Lord’s blade was pointed right at his exposed chest. “See, Sir,” McReedy continued upon witnessing his master’s shock. “If you continued fighting, you both would have died.”
“So?” the Grave Keeper asked, “I’d rather die than give up my land to a haughty wretch like the Raven Lord.”
“And I,” the Raven Lord added, “Would prefer to pass from this mortal coil before witnessing these pristine lands under the tyrannical hand of the Grave Keeper.”
“Oh, I’m sure you would,” McReedy replied, looking between the two Nexus Lords. “But this suicide pact of yours would leave me unemployed, and I have children to feed, so that just won’t do.”
“Then what should we do?” the Grave Keeper asked, still holding his weapon at the ready in case the Raven Lord got any ideas. “Because we’re not just going to give up on this land without a fight.”
“Of course,” McReedy replied. “However, why do you two need to be the ones fighting?”
“Because we’re the only ones who care!” the Raven Lord interjected. “And I can assure you, there’s no one stupid enough to risk his life in an absolutely meaningless…” The Nexus Lord’s voice trailed off, as he suddenly realized what the peasant was getting at.
“McReedy, you mean…” the Grave Keeper added, catching on as well.
“Yes,” McReedy confirmed with a nod, “We need the Heroes of the Storm.”