A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR THE NEXT SOVEREIGN OF ALL SHADE, PRODIGAL FONT OF NIGHTMARES, AND PRIME SCEPTER OF THE STYGIAN ABYSS • by Gordon Shoemaker

To the Eminently Feared Members of the Dark Sovereign Selection Conclave
Tower of Endless Sorrows
Thirteen Bone Boulevard
Dread Necropolis, Stygia

It is my great displeasure to write this letter of recommendation for Embress Shadow-Sworn as she seeks candidacy as our next Sovereign of All Shade, Prodigal Font of Nightmares, and Prime Scepter of the Stygian Abyss.

For the past two blood-moon cycles, Embress reported to me at the Screaming Gates of Stygia. Under the fanged termite skulls of our high council chamber, we worked tirelessly to defeat the advance of Braynor Star-Chosen. Embress, serving as Marshal of Surface Raids, demonstrated exceptional strategic analysis and regularly surpassed monthly death quotas. On a personal level, she is disagreeable and extremely quick to anger; both qualities have yielded her much success and would continue to do so as Nightmare-Crowned.

Unfortunately, the defeat and death of former Dark Lord Ralegavour on the Abyssal Plains (may his name be forever feared) caused quite the uproar from Embress. She strongly believes the fault of Braynor’s victory lies with the High Command of the Screaming Gates, myself most of all, citing my inability to foment new innovations of terror and slaughter that may have prevented Braynor and his Army of Nine Nations from breaking through into Stygia.

Embress has, by this writing, burned most of my personal staff and household, imprisoning me to await public and prolonged execution by Acid Snail digestion. And so I would like to take this opportunity to let you know just how excellent a candidate she is to be our 119th Sovereign of the Shade, a position she most justly seeks.

Embress began her massacre and mayhem career straight out of our Accelerated Necromancy Program, boasting of extensive training in Dread-Spawn summoning and record high marks in both Advanced Torture and Hellion History. In just her first cycle here she introduced several new initiatives into our terror operations: workshops for flaying-on-a-budget, forums on how best to spread agony evenly amongst surface-dwellers, and founded “Wretched Week” in which the Dread-Spawn could bring their subterranean families up to captured villages for an assortment of severed-head-related games and amusements.

Embress also oversaw a successful new Dread-Spawn breeding program involving cross-pollination with the giant mosquitos from the swamps of Vranis-Cruenr. Fundraising for the difficult process was done by a highly successful lottery she ran personally, the prize being her hand in marriage. Thousands of Dread-Spawn participated. And when the winner (a rather brutish half-mole) ascended the marriage dais only to fall through a trapdoor into a Needle Lizard pit, the assembled multitudes cried out in much laughter and adoration, as all souls were jealous of the ascendant and were glad to see him perish. Embress brings exciting new ideas like these to life and I’m confident she will continue her momentum as Sovereign of the Shade.

I will admit, I had been planning to use this final letter to ask vengeance for my impending death. But these last few days in captivity, as I listened to the screams of my former staff executed in the courtyard below despite the elegance of their pleas, I had a change of heart. I see that Embress was probably correct about me: I am not capable of the level of innovative cruelty she is. And so I must accept my fate in the cause of better spreading the Unholy Shade.

Embress Shadow-Sworn has my highest recommendation for the position of Dark Sovereign. I’m entirely convinced she will exceed even your most vile expectations, and I look forward to her inevitable rejection of my pleas for mercy.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Adric Krahddlesgrave
Former High Lord of the Gate
Bastion of the Damned
The Screaming Gates, Stygia


This is Gordon Shoemaker’s first fiction sale! However, he is no stranger to storytelling. Gordon’s work as a screenwriter/film director has screened at Soho International Film Festival, Garden State Film Festival, Visible Poetry Project NYC/London, Lancaster International Film Festival, Jaipur Literary Festival, New York City Poetry Festival, and Filmshortage.com. Gordon was honored to receive “Best First Time Director” from the Independent Shorts Awards last September, and “Best Local Director” from the 2018 PA Indie Shorts Film Festival.


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