- Charm: Sweet
- Adaptability: Unnecessary; all situations have been planned for
- Planning: Actually overprepared
- Survival Preparations: Downright epic
- Wealth: Secret treasure
- Weapons Skill: Medical instruments were not meant to be used that way
- Intelligence: Logistical
- Warm Fuzzies: Mosty toasty
- Leadership: Needs development
- Mutation: Lake Kraken
Angels of Death
It is symptomatic of the epidemic of post-apocalyptic cynicism that the gentle ISFJs are remembered not for their many kind deeds, but for the gruesome medical massacres they occasionally perpetrate. True, the corpses in question belonged to unsavory people that everyone wanted dead anyway, but there’s just something about the team medic murdering the whole party that gets folks excited.
In one particularly notorious incident, an ISFJ Assassin was serving as the medic for a band of slavers. ISFJs are caring, practical people who enjoy helping others in their own quiet way, and it is only natural that they fall into role of taking care of the wounded. The ISFJ in question was charged with the duty of keeping the party alive until the slaves could be sold at a flesh market in a distant city.
One day, the party had a particularly nasty clash with the undead. The ISFJ didn’t fight personally, but they were right there on the front lines, bravely dragging the injured slavers away from the zombies and performing emergency chainsaw amputations to save the lives of the bitten. Afterward, everyone praised the heroic medic for their work. The ISFJ gave an embarrassed smile as they passed around a pot of hot coffee brewed by their own hand. One of the slavers, Bert Childthief, had three cups. “To steady my nerves,” he said. The other party members told Bert that he wouldn’t get any sleep that night, but they were wrong—the man slept like a log. In fact, the sentry who tried to wake him for his shift couldn’t rouse him at all, which causes much annoyance the next morning.
“I slapped your face but you wouldn’t wake up,” the sentry complains.
“I had to take your shift,” another grouchy slaver adds.
Bert shrugs. “Guess I was tired. It was a nasty bit of work, and—boy, does my shoulder itch.” He itches at his arm savagely, then pulls up his sleeve. A black and blue zombie bite is exposed.
For a moment, there is dead silence.
Bert stares at the bite mark, his face pale. “How did…no…I…”
“Looks like we’re gonna have to put you down, Bert,” the group’s leader says, reaching for his rifle. “Nothing personal.”
“Wait!” the ISFJ cries. “I can save him.”
“It’s too late to amputate. The virus is already in his brain,” the leader says. He chambers a round with a sharp clack-clack.
“Let me give him an herbal preparation,” the ISFJ pleads. “I got the recipe from an INFP Healer. She said it could sometimes save early stage cases. Please. Let me try. I’ll shoot him myself if he…turns.”
Bert chimes in with desperate pleas to try the cure. The party leader grudgingly agrees.
Carefully the ISFJ puts together the ingredients for the potion. Then they inject Bert with a very large needle. Tension fills the camp as everyone waits for Bert to Turn. But he doesn’t. A miracle! Even Bert is astonished.
“What’s in that concoction?” the team leader asks.
The ISFJ reels off a list of substances, then adds offhandedly, “I wonder if I could make it into a vaccine by adding a few drops of floccinaucinihilipilification.”
“What’s that?” the leader asks.
The ISFJ explains using much medical jargon, enveloping the leader in a confusing cloud of Latin and Greek stems.
“Okay,” he says. “Why don’t we give it a try?”
Bert enthusiastically seconds the idea.
So the ISFJ dutifully mixes up a large potion of zombie vaccine. “This is only experimental. There might be some slight nausea at first.”
A small price to pay for immunity to the z-virus. The slavers eagerly hold out their arms for the shot. The ISFJ injects each of them with a large, painful needle.
“There,” the ISFJ says. “Now if you get bitten, you shouldn’t get infected.”
The ISFJ is the hero of the hour. But they are too modest to accept accolades. “I’ll go out and gather some herbs so I can extract more floccinaucinihilipilification.” Off they go into the woods.
A few hours later the nausea starts. It isn’t slight nausea, either. The slavers double over, emptying their breakfast all over the ground. The convulsions don’t stop. Finally they lay there, heaving uncontrollably
“Where’s the ISFJ?” the party leader demands between painful contortions of his stomach.
“They haven’t come back yet.”
“Someone go find them!”
But the ISFJ is nowhere to be found. As some very nasty symptoms start setting in, the frightened leader searches through the ISFJ’s medical bag, hoping to find a counteragent. But all they find is the following items:
- A bottle of sleeping pills, empty
- Canisters which once contained some kind of bitter-smelling liquid…the same liquid in the syringes used to inject the vaccine.
- A bottle of itchy poison ivy extract, empty
- A pair of false teeth with little shreds of meat caught in the cracks
One by one, the slavers die screaming.
Assassin at Large
If the ISFJ had slaughtered the slavers with a gun instead of a syringe, would the gossips who retell this grisly story use that particular tone of horrified awe? And why is it that the listeners react to the tale with shock rather than admiration?
But the usual response is almost inevitably negative. Some critics even go so far as to accuse the ISFJs of cowardice for refusing to fight face-to-face “like men.” ISFJ Assassins, however, prefer to remain in the shadows. They don’t like attention, and their Feeling preference makes confrontation painful to them. Though they fight as bravely as any other type, their idea of solving a problem involves a stiletto, a venomous insect, or a vial of tasteless, odorless poison. Of course their usual position as the camp medic and/or cook only makes things easier for them. Almost too easy, really. People just never learn. As for the people who complain that ISFJs won’t come out for a fair fight, i.e. one involving bullets, the ISFJ has only one thing to say, “Boo, hoo, hoo.”
Although most ISFJs only kill their teammates under extreme circumstances, some ISFJs will take up assassination as a hobby. These folks pride themselves on killing off each ne’er do well in a unique, creative way—i.e. a poisoned biscuit for gluttonous Bob, defective ammunition for psychotic Susan, an overdose of sleeping pills for melancholy Larry, and an injection of “flu vaccine” for hypochondriac Anny. So kind, wholesome and utterly normal do the ISFJs seem that they are always the last to be suspected. Like the kindly old lady who works at the post office for decades, only for it to be discovered that she embezzled $460,000 to fund her trips to Las Vegas, no one can visualize the ISFJ doing anything so out of character as murdering their own teammates. One ISFJ medic-for-hire operated for thirty years guiding parties up and down Plutonium Road. No one suspected him until one of the not-quite-dead poison victims woke up to find themselves staring into the hollow eyes of a skull. Woozily the man sat up. Bones. Bones piled everywhere. It was a real shocker to the community.
Being Guardians, ISFJs tend to gravitate towards membership in organizations, in this case secret assassin brotherhoods or sisterhoods. They take pride in belonging to exclusive, pedigreed guilds that feature ranks and orders and rituals and the like. Loyal, dutiful and silent, ISFJs form the heart of these secretive Orders. They especially prefer groups where the assassin apologizes to the victim before killing them; it seems to play into their feeling of regret for taking human life. After the apocalypse, these shadowy ISFJ organizations will have the power of life and death. However, no one will know it but them. Truth be told, the ISFJs are a perennially underestimated type.
Like their Feeling cousins the ESFJ Bunkerdragons, the ISFJs have a natural interest in seeing that other people are content and well-looked after. But whereas the extraverted ESFJs will invite everyone in for tea, cookies, and bingo, the ISFJs will invite in only their close family and friends for an intimate tete-a-tete. As such, ISFJs have no need for the extravagant warrens characteristic of ESFJs; rather, their bunkers tend to be small, cozy holes lined with a neatly organized assortment of gathered items. (The cookies are just as good though, and there are more to go around.) Furthermore, instead of socializing with their guests, the quiet-seeking ISFJ would rather be off on their own, foraging for their loved ones.
Yes, this is the heart of the matter; while other types entertain their guests, the ISFJ is out alone working hard on the guests' behalf. An ISFJ will carefully and methodically search demolished buildings, overturned vehicles, dead bodies, undead bodies and any other place where they suspect useful items might be found. Their persistence and thoroughness will far outstrip even that of the hunting-gathering Artisans, who are naturals at foraging but never bother to look beyond the next meal. The ISFJs, on the other hand, not only look beyond their next meal, but even at their last meal, i.e. the one they will be eating on their death bed, which hopefully won't be for another sixty or seventy years, but possibly sooner, if they aren't careful and hardworking enough.
An ISFJ's family and friends will be surprised at the diligence with which preparations have been undertaken.
"Honey, do you know where any spare candles are?" the spouse will ask.
"What kind do you want? Emergency candles? Birthday candles? Christmas candles? A candelabra? Beeswax candles? Roman candles?"
"Ah...just plain candles will do."
"What color would you like? We have red, orange, glitter, fuchsia, lemon, striped, pink, aqua—"
The funny thing is that the ISFJ would have offered much the same selection if the spouse had asked if there were any spare cars on hand.
So the ISFJs will continue to gather and gather. Eventually they will run out of space in their bunker and have to start digging caches in various strategic locations using heavy equipment that they will repair using parts they scavenged up. "Best not to put all the eggs in one basket," the ISFJ thinks prudently as they dig the hole. When the work is done they will carefully plant shrubberies over the excavation and mark down the location on their map. ISFJs never lose a cache.
Under normal circumstances, ISFJs deal with excess accumulation of goods by rummage sales or donations to the local charities. But seeing as how pretty much everyone is a charity case now, the ISFJs will simply donate their goods directly to the needy person(s) in question.
"Oh, you poor thing," they will say compassionately to the latest unfortunate who has attracted their attention. "Here, take this map and go dig where it says X. You'll find plenty of good, nourishing MREs, some nice warm clothing, and extra grenades for if you have to fend off a skullbear."
The needy will have cause to bless the ISFJ's generosity.
Not that all of the ISFJ's caches will consist of practical things like food, clothing, and explosives. In the dead of night, many an ISFJ will scurry twenty paces north from the old oak tree, then thirty paces east where there is a boulder. Pushing it away, they will hurriedly add a pair of earrings, a necklace, and a gold watch to their dully gleaming pile of treasure. Unbeknownst to all, ISFJs are one of the wealthiest types left alive on the surface.
Occasionally the ISFJ's map will be stolen by a treasure hunter hoping to get rich. The scoundrel will head to the X and dig and find...spare socks and underwear. ISFJs don't mark their treasure caches on maps. They aren't dumb, ya know.
The bug-out bag, or "BOB" is an essential piece of post-apocalyptic survival gear. A bug-out bag consists of a backpack loaded with several days' worth of survival rations and gear; the contents of the bag should be sufficient to last a survivor till they can reach refuge. However, after the world is annihilated, the bug-out bag will become more like a "lifestyle" bag.
Naturally the ISFJs will have the best. Here is an abbreviated list of all the items their bag will contain:
- Wire for snares
- Cooking utensils
- Survival knife
- Sunglasses, reading glasses, binoculars
- Precious metals (sewn into lining of pack)
- Solar panels
- Battery charger + rechargeable batteries
- Heavy duty plastic bags
- Sleeping bag
- Gun, ammo (will typically be carried on the ISFJ's person rather than in the bag)
- Gun cleaning kit
- Candy bars
- Shark repellent
- Cigarettes for bartering
- Bicycle repair kit
- First aid kit
- Glasses repair kit
- Deer musk
- Butchering tools
- Prey whistle
- Water resistant matches
- Fire striker
- Water purification tablets
- Water filtration pump
- Potassium iodide pills
- Hand grenades
- Wind up radio
- Geiger counter
- Signaling flares
- Snake venom antidotes
- Copy of The Guide to Edible Flora
- Copy of Field guide of Edible Mushrooms
- Copy of The Collection and Preparation of Medicinal Herbs
- Tiny collapsible wood stove
- Hatchet, saw
- Toothbrush, toothpaste
- Home dentistry kit
- MP3 player, earbuds
- Lean-to material
- Flask of brandy
- Cold/hot/wet weather gear
- Life ring
- Medicines (various)
- Berry picker
- Copy of Survival by Type
Some ISFJs will go too far and carry around backpack nukes in case the city they happen to be in is about to be captured by an invading army and they have to blow it up as part of a scorched earth policy. But these will be in the minority.
Of course, being the most prepared type does come with some drawbacks. For instance, many ISFJs will develop fallen arches or back problems later in life. It may be a good idea to invest in a draft horse early on in your survival efforts.
There is also the fact that carrying a heavy pack around will naturally tire ISFJs out faster, and they will tend to straggle behind the rest of the group. Although normally it is bad practice be last (people in that position get eaten first) in fact the ISFJ and their bug-out bag will be defended savagely by the rest of the group—if necessary to the last man. ISFJs should, however, take the precaution of remaining in view of the other party members at all times.
Life in the Underground
Those ISFJs who emigrate to underground cities in the Great Guardian Dig In (see the Guardian Survival Overview) will have a much different post-apocalyptic experience than their surface-dwelling kin.
They will descend into Caves One through Twenty, where they will settle down to a tranquil, undisturbed existence free from fear, provided one does not count the vampire dragonbats, the darkness-dwelling oorrg, the periodic outbreaks of zombie virus, and the wums, kraghouls, darkshrews, shriekowls, wyrms, et al. Cave Four, in particular, has an interesting time of it.
Still, most of these nightmares will be subdued within a generation or two—some will even be tamed and become faithful friends. But the struggle to survive these first years will take its toll on Guardian society. By the time the forces of chaos are driven back, the initially democratic government of Cave Four will have been replaced by a Great Committee headed by an ESTJ Underlord. There will also be a caste and guild system set in place, and ISFJs will be assigned to the Healing Caste. Marriages will be arranged by the Task Force Against Inbreeding. The Cavern will live according to a strict Standard Operating Procedures Manual written by experts to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. Inscribed on the pillars of your new civilization will be the proud mantra "Law & Order."
After the apocalypse, it became obvious that humanity was too irresponsible to be trusted with technology like atomic bombs, virus manufacturing, military robots, etc. Seeking to avoid the mistakes of the past, the Committee for Preventing a Second Apocalypse (CPSA) will set about bullet-proofing Cave Four against a recurrence of the disaster that destroyed the world the first time. Since changing human nature is impossible, the only way to prevent an apocalypse is to get rid of the world destroying technologies themselves. But how to do this without losing the benefits of useful things, like vaccines?
What will eventually be settled upon is a system of controls wherein only authorized personnel will be allowed to work with particular technologies. Within each caste and guild, there will be those who are taught to use this or that device. Only a special few will be instructed in how such devices work, and they will pass the knowledge on to an apprentice who will in turn instruct their own descendent. For the most part such teaching will be done orally. Though instructions will be written down as a backup in case of an unexpected death, the books will kept in a carefully controlled library, and only those with the proper credentials will be allowed to access it. Most people will be unaware that this library even exists.
As a consequence of this system, technology will slowly begin to be perceived with suspicion in its own right. No longer satisfied merely with nullifying threats to mankind, CPSA will work to reduce the corruptive influence of technology in ordinary citizens' lives. They will draw up a list of devices, i.e. TVs, fluorescent lights, toasters, computers, hair dryers, calculators, etc. and decide which are necessary, wholesome, and valuable and which are superfluous, impure, and evil. After studying the list, they will recommend the planned obsolescence of all “smart” devices. Computers are well known to be dangerously addictive, and if an operating system ever evolved into an AI, it could be very dangerous. So computers will be gotten rid of.
Less popular is CPSA's plan to get rid of TV. Though most citizens are willing to sacrifice their computers for the greater good of mankind, the majority oppose the extinction of television. CPSA will push hard for the Anti-TV Plan, but eventually they will have to be satisfied with merely reducing screen size to make TV less tempting to the weak-willed. A new line of CPSA-approved black-and-white TVs will also be manufactured. (CPSA will war against TV for thousands of years without success. They will manage to make TVs tiny and colorless; they will cut down the number of channels; they will even put an hourly commercial warning about the role of TV in electronic addiction; but they will never full free the citizenry from the tyranny of the Talking Box.)
In the manufacturing sector too, the role of technology will be reduced. Processes which were once conducted by means of electricity will be converted back to steam power, giving parts of the Cavern a “steampunk” sort of feel. Everyone will agree that all those whirling clockwork gears look a lot cooler than the humming, faceless panels of the old electric machinery. In other areas, technology will be reverted all the way back to the medieval period, with guns being replaced by swords and telephones being replaced by trained message bats. Not that electricity or guns or telephones will go away entirely—rather, only authorized personnel will be allowed to use them.
About 4,000 years into the occupation of Cavfoor, the ISFJ Healing Caste will be partitioned into two co-castes, the original Healing Caste and a new Priest Caste charged with carrying out the rites described in the Sacred Operating Procedures Manual.
The main task of this caste will be to ritually purify those who must interact with the unclean things—electricity, guns, and telephones. There will be special days set aside throughout the year to spiritually cleanse the personnel of the hair dryer factory, the warriors who use guns, the telephone operators, etc. The priests will also perform exorcisms. People who meddle with the innards of electrical devices risk possession by the demons within, which can pass into one's body and cause jerking and convulsions. Only by coming to the temple for cleansing can they be freed of the spirits' evil influence. Depending on the severity of their condition, they may also have to do a penance, such as abstaining from television for several months.
The Priest Caste will also appease Byuros and Crassia, the god and goddess of Law and Order. This will be accomplished via human sacrifice. The sacrifice is performed every April 15th by 5 pm when tax returns are submitted. Though it is a sad duty to bind victims in red tape and throw them to the sacred dragonbats, it is a necessary duty in order to prevent the government from falling, the cavern from collapsing into chaos, and the world from ending (again). When the sacrifices are finished, the ISFJs will fill out the appropriate paperwork, make sure all the appropriate signatures are emplaced by the deadline, and submit a properly filled out form requesting another year of mercy from Byuros and Crassia.
Occasionally there will be terrible earthquakes and the water will turn poisonous. In such times you will have to perform a special emergency sacrifice, beginning with a Great Audit. At your command, the Inspector Guild will go over all the returns of the citizens, looking for tribute evaders. A list of shirkers will be drawn up.
The biggest shirker will be brought to the Cave of Preparation and smeared with ceremonial sauces prepared by ESFJ gourmands. The process will be overseen by ISFJ priests who perform the ritual chant, "Death to delinquents, death to delinquents, death to delinquents..." The shirker will be taped.
At the Time of Offering, the Great Committee will gather around golden roosting cage of the dragonbats. Arrayed in majestic splendor, the ESTJ Underlord will intone, "Those who drain society shall themselves be drained." When he lowers his hand, it is the signal to toss the victim to the holy white dragonbats, which will have been starved for several days in preparation. It will all be over quickly. Byuros and Crassia will provide you with a 90 day grace period in which additional tribute can be submitted, and in that time the water will become safe to drink again.
By ensuring that these important rituals are carried out in a timely fashion, the ISFJ Priest caste will keep Cavfoor in compliance and prevent disaster.
The original task of the Healing Caste was to prevent zombie outbreaks by educating the populace on the importance of washing hands and not getting bitten by zombies. They will work hand in hand with the ISTJ Warriors guild to contain outbreaks, if necessary by lethal force. ISFJs on the front lines will be some of the first doctors and nurses to offer a bullet to the head as a cure for infection.
Another serious problem is vitamin D deficiency. Since the populace is no longer exposed to direct sunlight, they will be unable to synthesize vitamin D naturally in their skins. This will lead to cases of rickets, bone fractures and other preventable ailments. Your caste will solve this problem by recommending that salt be fortified with vitamin D as well as iodine. “Sunlight salt,” you’ll call it.
But your proudest accomplishment will come when your caste discovers a cure for zombie virus, leading incidentally to the discovery of beast bonding. Like most scientific breakthroughs, it comes partially through study and partially through serendipity.
As a backdrop, it should be understood that Cave Four has a large number of mutated lifeforms that reproduce by taking over a human host. There are the zombies of course, but also a particularly pernicious form of Mold, and some nasty creatures called oorrg. The Healing Caste expends quite a bit of time studying the problems of parasitic takeover.
The initial discovery comes through chance: the Hunter’s Guild notices anyone who gets an appendage bitten off by an oorrg is henceforth immune to the zombie virus. Oorrg, like zombies, reproduce through biting. But whereas zombieism spreads through a viral vector, oorrgism spreads through tiny parasitic larvae that live in the creature's saliva. The larvae take up residence in the host’s brain, slowly eating and growing, eating and growing. They cunningly replace the original host’s brain as they go, imitating human behavior as best they can.
Fortunately the parasites aren’t terribly good at understanding humor, and can be unmasked by a simple knock knock joke, i.e. “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Oorrg.” “Oorrg who?” “Urgent message for you! There are parasites in your brain!” If the person laughs mechanically, as if they don’t really find the joke funny but are laughing just because they know they should, they’re inhuman. Kill them before the parasites explode out of their eyes. This will also have the beneficial side effect of getting rid anyone without a sense of humor.
Though the oorrg’s insidious reproductive strategy is almost as horrifying as being turned into a zombie, it is much easier to keep in check. Eventually scientists will discover that the parasitic larvae can be managed with drugs. But that still leaves the question of how getting bitten by an oorrg stops the zombie virus.
Initially, scientists will leap to the conclusion that the anti-parasitic drugs prevent z-virus. But soon it will become clear that this is not the case. No, it is the parasite itself, not the drugs, that holds back the virus. The mechanism for how this result is achieved is unclear, yet obviously it works.
In theory, if every single person in cavern were infested with the parasite—and put on drugs to prevent the whole eye-exploding thing—the entire Guardian population would be immune.
But brain parasites are a tough pill to swallow. Instead, the population will keep plugging away at the zombie problem with the usual strategies: headshots, amputations, and quarantines. Underfunded and ignored, parasite research will lag for a century.
But finally an ISFJ doctor will make a startling discovery. While attempting to develop new anti-parasitic drugs, she sliced up a larva into thirds and allowed each piece to regenerate in a petri dish filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Since the regrown larvae would be genetically identical, she could therefore control for individual variation when measuring drug effects.
The surprise came when she injected drugs into the first larva. The moment the needle went in, all the larvae wriggled in unison—almost as if the others felt the bite of the needle too, though they were in totally separate petri dishes. Astonished by this result, the ISFJ moved the other larvae to another room and tried again. The same thing happened. No matter how far apart the larvae were, the result was always the same: they reacted as one being. Isn’t nature weird? So she wrote a paper about it. The paper was rejected by every single scientific publication in the cavern. “We do not hold with your theory of ‘larval entanglement.’ Such psychic ‘spooky action at a distance’ is beyond implausible,” one rejection letter read. Her funding was cut.
But the ISFJ was still curious. She wondered what would happen if a divided larva was introduced into two hosts, in this case a pair of young dragonbats. (Dragonbats are one of several intermediate hosts for oorrg larvae. This means the larvae don’t explode out of their eyes. Instead they pass boringly out in the dragonbat's feces.) This time the results were even more astounding: the dragonbats seemed aware of one another’s emotions and desires. If one was hungry, both would clamor for prey together. When one was calm and the other was excited, both would soon grow aroused—even if they were kept at different ends of the Cavern.
At this point, the ISFJ did something that she knew was very rash. But she had always wanted to help people, and she was anxious to regain her lost standing in the scientific community, so it seemed like a risk worth taking. (Guardians are the most risk averse of the four temperaments, but when convinced of the benefits, they will set their jaw and roll the dice.) So she injected herself and a baby dragonbat with a pair of twinned larvae.
The risk paid off spectacularly. Within days, the ISFJ discovered that she was developing a mental connection to the dragonbat. As the larvae took over her brain, she discovered that she could sense the bat’s emotions, feel the wind under its broad wings, and even communicate with it using simple mind-images. And so the first beast-bond was made. At this point the ISFJ’s nerve broke and she began desperately gulping down parasite-management drugs to control the infestation.
When the ISFJ presented the scientific community with undeniable proof of larval entanglement, the result was electric. Who wouldn’t want to be bonded to their own personal dragonbat? Before, citizens would have literally died before allowing themselves to be infested with oorrg parasites. Now the government is forced to issue warnings that citizens should not to infest themselves without proper medical supervision. The ISFJ Assassin will be honored with an award in the form of a prestigious prize. Her dragonbat will accept the reward with her, and be very proud of her achievement. Zombieism will go down with smallpox as a conquered disease. The ISFJ herself will go on to become the first person to bond with a kraken.
The Lord of the Underworld
Although the caverns will generally be blessed by an unbroken succession of noble, wise ESTJ kings and queens, there are scheduled exceptions. Every thousand years, an evil king will arise to seize control of Cavfoor, enslave the citizens, and rule the underworld with an iron fist. Given the proclivity of these “Shadow Kings” for constructing hives of advanced industry and breeding Armies of Night to attack the surface dwellers above, it is widely believed that these Shadow Kings are the descendants of NT Rationals, who went down into the caverns with the original Guardian settlers.
Rational engineers were needed for the initial creation of the caverns. During their lifetime, they lived among the Guardians in high honor. But five hundred years later, their great-great-great-grandchildren will be viewed as troublemakers. Forced to survive in a world where planned technological regression is mandated by the Committee for Preventing a Second Apocalypse, the NTs were finally driven to madness when their brilliant new robot got second place in the science fair, losing to a baking soda volcano. Therefore they will someday become Shadow Lords and attempt to remake Cavfoor in their own Rational image.
This is the theory, anyway. You know the truth. Only a Guardian Shadow King (or Queen) would adhere so punctually to a tradition requiring them to appear every 1,000 years on the dot. This is because the original Rational lineages have become so mixed with Guardian blood that true Rationals hardly ever appear anymore. The Sacred Operating Procedures Manual calls for the Shadow Lord to be "a tall ENTJ male, twisted and evil, of the designated Shadow Lord lineage (See 3.45.ii)." These days, you're lucky to get an INTP Wizard. In fact, the Shadow Lord lineage has been so heavily inbred by the Committee Against Inbreeding's attempts to maintain the purity of the Rational genes that most Shadow Lords are now sterile. The last Shadow Lord descendant (your father, a kindly ESFJ Bunkerdragon) produced only one heir. You.
You are are a short, female ISFJ Assassin whose proudest achievement in life thus far has been to build a baking soda volcano that took first place in the science fair (second place went to a less worthy volcano).
No one says anything, but you feel the silent disappointment of the high priestesses as they dress you in the traditional vestments, a black robe and iron death mask. You should have been an ENTJ, their accusing eyes say. Who ever heard of an ISFJ Shadow Queen?
All you ever wanted from life was to be normal. (Well, okay, so you also wanted to be a Krakenmistress.) But you didn't get either of those things.
It's all because of your Rational ancestors. The sacred imagery of the Priest Caste depicts NTs as red-eyed demons with terrifying fangs and claws. Under one arm, they hold a computer; under the other, a nuclear bomb. (Most people assume that the computer is just a funny-looking TV, but you know the truth. You've seen computers. As for the bomb, no one knows what it is, but everyone knows that it destroyed the previous world. The gods had to build another world from scratch: this one.)
You, however, have actually seen pictures of Rationals. They look almost like ordinary people. Some wore funny clothing or had strange hair, but besides that no one would ever guess that they were anything out of the ordinary. Unless one looks closer. When you study the faded old photographs, you think you can discern a sort of neurotic expression in their eyes, as if your ancestors were tightly controlling the urge to scream.
You wonder if other people look at you and see the same expression. Frightened by the thought, you strive to seem perfectly normal. You study normalness; you make it a science. It doesn't work. When you look in the mirror, you can see the neurotic expression forming. You redouble your neurotic efforts to appear normal. You also try to make yourself invisible. The less you're noticed, the less likely it is that anyone will realize that you are abnormal. After years of hiding you find that you can fade into the background if you're quiet and inconspicuous enough. Most of your classmates won't even know your name after spending years in the same classroom with you. When they speak of you, they refer to you merely as “that girl who sits in the back.”
Your isolated lifestyle lends itself well to your training. When you were six, your father began to instruct you in the dark arts. He taught you about computers, electricity, and genetic engineering. He taught you that the sur-fas is not the place where the damned go, but an actual real location about half a mile up. He taught you how to use guns, swords, and other weapons. He even instructed you in the prophecies that you must fulfill if you are someday called upon to reign as a Queen of Evil. By the time you get out of high school your head is crammed full of unholy knowledge.
How ironic that you are subsequently appointed as one of the priestesses who cleanses users of technology. You exorcise “electrical demons,” make sacrifice for those who used the telephone, and assign penances of TV abstention. You feel like a complete hypocrite.
One day you go to your superiors and plead to be assigned a different task. They want to know why. You delicately hint that your ancestry makes this task uncomfortable for you. Anything that has to do with your ancestry means an immediate referral to the Taskforce Against Inbreeding, so you are sent over to the TAI to discuss matters. The TAI is one of the most powerful organizations in the Cavern because it controls marriages. Although citizens are allowed a limited choice of genealogically approved spouses, each marriage must be checked for genetic compatibility before it becomes official. Even the royal family is subject to the TAI's marital controls, which gives them quite a bit of leverage. Infamously, the TAI once refused to grant approval for the king to marry a lady from one of the lower houses—presumably on the basis of genetic incompatibility, though some said it was because they disapproved of his choice. The marriage was controversially approved after the ESTJ married his daughter to the TAI chairman's own son.
Upon being escorted to the secret section of the TAI that deals specifically with your family, you have a little nervous breakdown. “Why do we do this?” you yell, tears streaming down your face. “What's the point of it all? Can't we just forget about the past and never have a Shadow King again? I can't live like this.”
The TAI agent regards you calmly. Then she retrieves a small book. There is no title or name on the black cover, and there is a lock binding it shut. She undoes the lock and instructs you to read the book carefully. You are not allowed to remove it from the office, so you read it right then and there.
Right away, you can tell it was written by a Rational. Only a Rational would start a book off with a sentence like, “The temporary reversal of social norms that occurs in a controlled, stereotyped format during cyclical feasts is an outlet designed to release the strain produced by the habit of conformation required in a stratified society.” Basically, the premise of the book is that every 1,000 years, the tightly controlled society of Cavfoor requires a release. Holidays like the Feast of the Fools, the Roman Saturnalia, and Halloween once provided the Ancients with an outlet to express their frustrations with the way things are. On these special days, people were free to break traditions, ignore taboos and up-end authority. In a similar way, the theory goes, the cyclical appearance of a Shadow King allows Guardian society to temporarily go mad in order to maintain its sanity for the next 999 years. The Shadow King's abusive use of technology also reminds the population not become complacent about the dangers of science.
You find all of this a little difficult to swallow. You sure don't like the idea of some mad king destroying everything, and you don't think that anyone else would either. Yes, maybe there are a few things you would change—like requiring penance for electrical shock victims—but that's not worth devastating the whole world for. You don't tell the TAI agent any of this though. You make a point of never arguing with anyone about anything. That would make you stand out, and then you would look abnormal.
So you pretend to agree that you understand. You also pretend that you understand when the TAI agent tells you that your training as a priestess of purification is intended to give you the self restraint you will need in order to deal with the temptation that comes with your Rational heritage. (As if you had any temptation! You don't even watch TV because it makes you feel guilty. The only reason you have a TV at all is to look normal.) After the talk is over, you slink back to your job cleansing the impure and assigning penances.
You never suspected that the TAI had an ulterior motive in telling you allthis.
Several months later, at the dawn of the new year, you are called back to the TAI. They inform that you are the Chosen One destined to destroy the world. You are flabbergasted. “That—that's—it must be a mistake!”
But it's not. You have been chosen as the Shadow Lord.
The exact date of the prophecy's fulfillment is a tightly controlled secret, but you had just assumed that it was going to happen in six hundred years or so—certainly not in your lifetime. Actually it was exactly one thousand years ago. Too long ago for anyone except the TAI to remember.
“I can't be the Shadow Lord,” you insist desperately. “I'm not a Rational. I'm just an ISFJ. I can't be the Shadow Lord!”
After the Rise of Evil ceremony, you huddle miserably on your throne. You are supposed to be plotting a techno-dystopia, but instead you wallow in a pool of self pity. You feel grateful for the mask that covers your face as you stare miserably into space, contemplating your fate.
Your efficient ESFJ Bunkerdragon minion brings you coffee.
"What is your command, my Lady?" he rasps, kneeling before your throne as he holds up a tray of donuts.
I don't know, you think. This isn't fair. I hate my life.
“Has the new king turned up yet?” you ask hopefully. Your only way out of this role is to be ousted by a brave young hero, a poor mushroom farmer who is actually the lost heir of the noble, wise, ESTJ Underlord you just dethroned in the Rise of Evil ceremony. It is all carefully arranged in accordance with the prophecies.
“I have heard no news of this thing,” your secretary replies.
Sighing, you send him away.
That night, you lie in the deposed king’s luxurious bed, staring sleeplessly at the ceiling. All you ever wanted was for no one to notice the neurotic expression in your eyes. That will be easy, now that your face is covered up a death mask that makes your eyes look like burning red coals.
Your superiors in the Priest Caste have been informed of your role in the Rise of Evil. They tell you that you must try to come up with a diabolical plan for the enslaved populace to carry out. The “black chapters” of their secret Manual stipulate that your plan must involve “a large, destructive building project, intended to create sorrow and misery on an unprecedented scale.” Unfortunately, the precise type of building project has been left to the Shadow Lord’s own discretion, and try as you might, the only project that springs to mind is the baking soda volcano you built in 6th grade. You can see it hovering in the darkness overhead, mocking you with its painted styrofoam cone and bubbling vinegar-and-red-dye lava. When you finally do fall asleep, the cursed thing haunts your dreams.
Morning comes all too soon. The death mask conceals the dark bags under your bleary eyes as you shamble into the throne room. They’ve replaced the old king’s golden throne with a new one made of steel. The legs are formed of taloned hands clutching human skulls. The arms and back are mare of carven faces twisted in living agony.
Reluctantly, you sit down upon the thing. There is no cushion. Your minions gather around you. You hate being the center of attention. Instinctively you shrivel down in your macabre throne.
Your chief minion, a black-robed ISTJ Sentinel with a corpse-white face and sunken eyes, kneels before you and hisses, “What is your bidding, oh Great Lord of Terror? What dread plan have you for your servants?”
You know what they’ve come for—the plans for the building project. You don’t have a clue what to tell them.
They are waiting expectantly. As you fumble for words, the silence grows thick, every second increasing the awkwardness of the moment. Your mind is blank. You can almost feel the volcano leering at you, bubbling merrily.
“W-well, uhm, why don’t we make a, uhm, a v-volcano?”
There you’ve said it, and you’re a complete idiot. Your face flushes beet red.
“It shall be done,” the ISTJ Sentinel breathes. Rising ghostlike, he vanishes from the room in a swirl of ebon robes, the other minions following.
You lean your head back against the hideous throne and beseech Byuros and Crassia for mercy.
Building begins. Entire sections of the cavern are razed; people are driven from their homes to form the base of your volcano. You stare out at the refugees camping on the streets and feel wretched.
On your lunch break, you sneak out and return home. You grab all the food from your kitchen and all the clothing from your closet. You pass it out among the refugees. They thank you profusely, and your face reddens with shame. If only you could have thought of a better project—a smaller, less harmful one—then none of this would have happened. But when your lunch break is over you scurry right back to the throne room and put on the death mask again.
Where the homes of your friends and neighbors once stood, the ISTJ Sentinels construct a gigantic steel scaffold in the shape of a volcano. The Chemists Guild works around the clock to manufacture vast quantities of baking soda, vinegar, and red food coloring. You not only feel guilty, you feel like an utter fool.
Every day, you go to oversee labor on the volcano. Much as you loath the sight of your creation, the walk outdoors is preferable to the deathly atmosphere of your throne room. On one of these daily excursions, you are walking down a narrow steel catwalk adjoining two massive stalactites that hang from the ceiling. The whole cavern is spread out before you: the glowing lake and its tributaries; the speleoform parks; the chasms. A maze of catwalks transects the space like silver spiderwebs. Your black-robed minions follow behind you in a ghastly train.
Just as you are passing from one catwalk to another, a man plummets down in front of you. The intruder lands in a crouch. He has an earnest face, a determined jaw, and a tall, lithe figure. There is an air of authority about him as he fearlessly meets your eyes; you realize instinctively that he is an ESTJ Underlord of the Leader caste. He draws a sword.
Simultaneously, you hear cries of surprise from your guards, and whirl around to discover that they are under attack by more assailants. But you have no time to think about that. The ESTJ advances toward you, his sword pointed towards your chest. You realize that he is the hero. With a prayer of thanks for your deliverance, you draw your blade.
Nearly three centuries ago, the Committee for Preventing a Second Apocalypse ruled that swords will replace guns for everyday violence. You are a pretty good with a sword, or at least that is what you tell people because you are too modest to tell them that your father has been drilling you in swordsmanship since you could walk in preparation for carrying on the family tradition of destroying everyone’s lives. Your ESTJ nemesis has likewise been studying swordsmanship, statecraft, and mushroom farming since he could walk in preparation for his family tradition of overthrowing you and becoming a noble, wise king. But you have one advantage that he doesn't: a gun.
However, it would be against all mores and expectations to shoot the hero on sight. Truth be told, you don’t want to hurt him at all. But, you also don’t want him to stab you, either. And he is very determined to do that. There is a hard determination in his eyes as he presses the attack, driving you back down the catwalk. Good thing you spent so many lonely hours practicing with your father. Even in your smothering, restrictive black robe, you are a superb swordsman.
“Your mad plan will never succeed, Rational,” he says.
“I think maybe it will,” you say.
You are glad that you have fooled someone, at least.
You see an opening. With one deft stroke, you knock his blade from his hand. He gives a cry of pain as the sword twirls off the bridge and falls with a splash into the lake below. His hand is bloody. You wince in painful sympathy.
“Okay, you’re my prisoner now,” you say. “I’ll get you to a—”
His face takes on a desperate expression. He leaps off the side of the bridge.
You stare in astonishment as he plunges into the lake. For a moment, there is nothing but spreading ripples. Then he surfaces again, gasping, and swims for the nearest island.
Your ISTJ chief minion appears at your side. “Shall I pursue him?”
“Y-yes,” you stammer. “Quick, hurry, before the lake monsters smell his blood!” You hadn’t realized the hero would be quite so motivated.
Your minions dart off to obey. A boat is commandeered, and before the hero can reach the island he is dragged up into the vessel and bound hand and foot. You watch from above, your gauntleted hands tight on the railing. The rest of his party has been similarly trussed.
“What shall we do with them?” your minions inquire.
“Take them to the dungeon,” you say. Your gaze follows the ESTJ as they row him towards the bank, clutching his bleeding hand.
Afterward, you return to your throne room and pace nervously. How badly did you hurt him? What if he gets an infection from the lake water? Or pneumonia? What if you cut a tendon and he can never use his hand again? What if he dies and there’s no one to dethrone you?
“Shall we feed the impudent fool and his pathetic followers to the dragonbats?” your chief minion prompts, probing you with his sunken eyes.
You give a distracted nod. As a member of the Priestly Caste, you are cross-trained in the healing arts. You could go down to the dungeon and check on the ESTJ, see that he’s alright. Someone will need to check his blood anyway, to make sure that he doesn’t have any blood diseases that could harm the sacred dragonbats. However, while it would be acceptable for the Shadow Lord to go down to the dungeon to gloat, it would be less acceptable for the Shadow Lord to dole out antibiotics.
Of course, technically you don't have to obey any rules. Even the Manual chapters specifying the Dark Lord’s actions are there for guidance only; you are allowed (but not encouraged) to break all laws and traditions during the duration of your reign. Still, helping the hero just isn’t done.
There is another way. So far as you know, there isn’t any rule against dressing up in your old priestess robes and meeting the hero in the dungeon. Nobody but the high priests knows who the Shadow Lord really is, so you wouldn’t be compromising your position. Helping the hero might not be completely proper, but it isn’t forbidden, either—if only because no one has ever tried it so far. Anyway, you rationalize, it wouldn’t be proper if the hero died from an infection, either.
Feeling guilty nonetheless, you strip off your robes of office and slip into your old, comfortable priestal garb. It feels wonderful to take off the cold iron death mask, if only briefly. You hurry down to the dungeons.
The hero and his party are locked up in five cells on the deepest, darkest level. You grab water, bandages, antiseptic, forms, and a blood collection kit from inventory. It's time to meet your nemesis personally.
Timidly you unlock his door. It slowly squeaks open, revealing a bleak cell and a downcast ESTJ. Your enemy sits slumped on his bunk, staring sightlessly at the worn stone floor. His hand is wrapped in a shred of cloth torn his shirt.
“Are you alright?” you ask, alarmed at the red-stained bandage. “Has anyone looked at your hand yet?”
He looks up and examines you with those earnest eyes. After a moment, he shakes his head.
Gently you take his hand, unwinding the makeshift bandage to reveal a shallow slash running from thumb to wrist. It is already red and swollen, but at least he can move all his fingers. You feel awful.
“Am I to be fed to the dragonbats?” he asks.
“Yes,” you say, “But not for a week. They have to be starved first. Don’t worry, your death will be quick and painless.”
He nods, expressionless. You feel worse than ever, even though you plan to let him escape before then.
After cleaning and wrapping his hand, you pull a folder from your robe and get out the paperwork. This is another one your normal priestly duties—performing the comforting ceremonies to prepare a sacrificial victim for death.
“You’ll need to fill out some forms to prepare for your demise,” you explain. You retrieve the appropriate papers from the packet and hand him a pen. He takes it clumsily with his unbandaged hand. “The first thing you’ll need to do is fill out this Death Acceptance form. If you have any last words you can record them here on line four, then sign at the bottom. After that, you’ll need to fill out these notifications to let Byuros and Crassia know that you are no longer alive. Here’s an application for acceptance into the afterlife. And finally, you’ll also need to sign these Verification of Execution Preparation forms to verify that you were properly prepared for your death.”
When you’re done with the forms, it’s time for a blood sample.
“Okay, now here comes the hard part,” you say, adopting a reassuring smile. “I just need to draw a little blood to make sure that you’re in good health.”
“Wouldn’t want the dragonbats to get sick,” the ESTJ Underlord says calmly, offering his arm.
Expertly you find the vein. You rub his warm, musky-smelling skin with alcohol, then poke in the needle and begin to draw his blood into a syringe. You are oddly pleased that your adversary is not the sort that grows squeamish at sight of blood. It would be scandalous if the hero fainted the moment the dragonbats begin to dine, not that he'll be facing them anyway. When the syringe is full, you withdraw the needle and place the equipment back in the tray.
“You did very well,” you say. “I wish all victims were as good as you.”
“I always like to make people’s jobs easier,” he says. “What next?”
“That’s all,” you say. “Now I’ll go administer the death rites to your companions. Let’s see, wasn’t there a young heroine—uh, woman—in your party? I could take a message to her, if you’d like.” You suppose she is his future queen.
To your surprise, his face grows cool. Straightening up, he says in formal tones, “Thank you, I appreciate your consideration. Please tell her that I look forward to our engagement.”
You sense friction between the hero and his intended beloved. “I’ll let her know,” you promise anyway.
Locking the cell back up, you head down to a cell on the far end of the hallway. Here the hero’s love interest is ensconced in a lightless chamber. You let yourself in. The light of your candelabra reveals a beautiful woman with aristocratic features. She glowers at you.
“Well, it’s about time,” she snaps. “Where’s my food? And don’t bring me any of that dungeon slime. I’m the Lady Allesenda, and soon I will be Queen Allesenda.”
You try to tell yourself that you would be in a bad mood too if you had just been captured and thrown in a dungeon. “Sorry; I actually came to—”
“If you didn’t come to bring me food, then go and get someone who will,” she says, turning her back on you.
“Uh…” You look down at your forms, then instinct takes over and you say respectfully, “As you wish, Lady Allesenda.”
Bowing your way out, you hurry off to find an ESFJ caterer. It is not until you have left that you realize that you forgot to deliver the ESTJ Underlord’s message to her. Somehow, you can’t bring yourself to feel too sorry.
The next day you find yourself thinking about the ESTJ as you inspect the growing volcano. The ISTJs are spraying fast-dry concrete on the skeleton of girders, and the cone is beginning to look like a mountain at last. You only half listen as your minions make cowering reports about their slow progress and beg for mercy.
On your lunch break, you change out of your Dark Lord robes and sneak down to the dungeons to check on the prisoners again. The ESTJ’s face brightens when you enter his cell.
“How are you doing?” you ask.
“I’m feeling better by the moment,” he says, smiling as he holds out his hand for you to examine.
You chat with him for awhile, just smalltalk. Then he shares how his father’s mushroom farm was razed by your minions. You listen, appalled.
“This is a nightmare,” you murmur to yourself.
He looks at you in surprise. “Don’t you serve the Shadow Lord?”
You nod miserably. “I have no choice.”
He touches your arm. “I understand.”
There is a distant look in his eyes, as if he too carries a burden. You sit together silently, each lost in your own fate. The warmth of his skin is pleasant against your arm.
When your lunch break ends, he asks when you will be back. You hesitate. It’s bad enough that you visited once; worse still that you visited twice; and now you are thinking about visiting every day? But you smile and say, “I’ll be back soon.”
From then on you visit the ESTJ on every lunch break and every day after work. You rationalize your actions by telling yourself that you can be a better Shadow Lord if you get to know your enemy better. He shares his dreams for the Cavern, and you tell him about what is going on outside his cell. You are impressed by his intelligence and deep compassion for the people; it makes a pleasant contrast to Lady Allesenda’s contemptuous demands. You make inquiries about his feelings toward her, but learn nothing new. He won’t say anything bad about her, but neither will he say anything good. There is no affection in his eyes.
You are keenly aware of the week’s passage. The dragonbats’ time of fasting is reaching its end, and soon it will be time to throw him into the cage. It is unexpectedly painful to realize that when he escapes, you won't be able to talk with him like this again. Everything within you protests against separation.
On the afternoon before the execution, you make your way down to the dungeons one last time. You are almost reluctant to see him again, because you know you will have to say goodbye. You brought a cinnamon roll in your lunch to share with him.
When you reach his cell, you find the guards lying unconscious on the ground. The ESTJ is digging through their pockets for the keys.
“You’re escaping,” you say dumbly, though you knew it was scheduled to happen today.
He takes hold of your shoulders and looks into your eyes. “Come with me. You don’t have have to stay here any longer.”
“Why would we bring her?” Lady Allesenda demands from her cell down the hall.
The ESTJ ignores her. “We can stop the Shadow Lord together. Join me and we’ll end this nightmare.”
You realize that you want nothing more in the world than to go with him.
But there is your duty. You can't just walk away—you would get in trouble. And he wouldn't be able to defeat the Shadow Lord because the Shadow Lord is you.
“I…I can’t,” you choke out.
“Please,” he says. He places his hand under your chin and gently lifts your face. “I need you.”
You crush your eyes shut. “I can’t.”
“I just—I can’t. I’m sorry.”
You know that if you wait another second you will succumb. Tearing yourself away, you flee up the stairs.
It would have been futile to go with him anyway. You can’t just quit being the Shadow Lord; life doesn’t work like that. And when the ESTJ found out that you had destroyed the whole world, he wouldn’t have wanted you anyway.
You were miserable before. Now you are heartbroken too.
The next morning, you are summoned by the High Priests for a performance review. As an ISFJ Assassin, you find confrontation acutely painful. So do your ISFJ superiors. Which means that this is Very Serious.
“I’m afraid this doesn’t look very good,” one of the ISFJ priestesses says in a soft, mild tone. “I know you’re trying, but I feel like you could be doing better. Milady.”
The already uncomfortable situation is rendered doubly awkward by the fact that you technically outrank them. “I’m sorry,” you murmur.
Your quasi-superiors explain that although there are many good things about you and your performance, they are somewhat disappointed by your fraternization with the hero, which they have recently discovered. It simply isn’t done, they say—you really need to play your role. They also express disappointment in how kind, quiet, and unassertive you have been acting. They say that you don’t gloat enough, and are too soft on your minions. They realize how difficult it is for you, and they hope you will do better from now on.
You nod and nod, shrinking lower and lower in your chair.
At last you are released. You wander dazed through the sinister halls of the former king’s palace, somehow reaching the throne room. It is 4:45. A quarter of an hour left till the day is over. You count the minutes out one by one, then stumble back to your room. As Shadow Lord you have all the power in the world. You have never felt so helpless.
By the end of the week the volcano is finished. It looms over the cavern, dominating everything with its faux-stone facade. The smell of wet baking soda fills the air; drums of white slurry are being poured into the central vat. Soon it will be time to add vinegar and flood the cavern with all-destroying lava. Your ISTJ engineers have outdone themselves. The sides of the volcano are illuminated by ominous red spotlights.
“A testament to your grandeur of our glorious master,” your chief minion hisses. “May your reign last forever.”
“Good job,” you mumble.
Your reign is almost over—in fact, you signed the death acceptance paperwork this morning. Although your heavily inbred genes are too valuable to actually destroy (the prophecies are carefully phrased so that hero “stops” the Shadow Lord rather than “killing” him), there is always the chance that something could happen. The general thinking is that you will end up thrown into your own volcano by the ESTJ Underlord. Hopefully it will be possible to rescue you before you drown in semi-liquefied baking soda, but if not...
As far as you’re concerned, the charade can’t end soon enough. Tomorrow you can go back to being an ordinary priestess and put all this behind you. You load bullets into your gun. When the hero attacks you with his sword, you are supposed to shoot him. As Shadow Lord, you don't have any honor.
You stare at your loaded gun. Are you actually supposed to fire this thing in the direction of another human being? What if you hit him by accident? You imagine him clenching his chest, gasping bubbly breaths.
You unload your gun and hurl the bullets to the ground. “Why is everything so unfair?”
If you really had all the power in world—for real—you would make things different. You would tell the ESTJ he didn't have to marry Lady Allesenda. You would make a rule that he could marry anyone he wanted, even you. In fact, you would make a rule that you didn't have to be the Shadow Lord anymore. There would never be any more Shadow Lords even again. You would give the refugees clothes and rebuild all the homes. You would even make it so that electric shock victims could watch as much TV as they wanted. And why not bond a kraken while you're at it? That's what you would do if you had all the power in the world.
You laugh bitterly and tuck the empty gun into its holster within your black robe. The Shadow Lord doesn't kiss the hero and live happily ever after.
On the day of your doom, you climb the ascending catwalks that lead to the top of the volcano. The sheer size of the construction is mind-blowing. By the time you reach the rim you are panting and sweating under your robe.
A platform stands at the top. You lean cautiously over the edge (there are no handrails) and stare morbidly into the red darkness inside the maw of your creation. The smell of baking soda is so strong that it is almost nauseating. There are spigots situated around the interior of the crater for vinegar to be pumped in.
Your chief minion kneels before you, holding up a black box sealed by clasps in the shape of clawed hands. You undo the clasps and the box springs open, revealing a remote control with a single gleaming red button. There is no question as to its function.
You take the remote in one gauntleted hand. This is your cue to gloat. You don’t. Despite the tips you received during your performance review, it grates against everything you are and every honest feeling you have. You don’t feel glad about this; you feel like hurling the remote into the volcano, stripping off your robes and death mask, and—
“Your reign ends here, monster!” a voice cries.
So soon? You whirl around, half smiling, half despairing. The ESTJ is fighting his way up the catwalk towards you, a whirlwind of steel and fury. Minions fall, screaming. He has come to destroy you. Strangely you almost feel almost like he has come to rescue you.
“The fool,” you ISTJ Sentinel minion croaks, striding towards the catwalk. “I shall destroy him.”
“No. Leave him to me,” you say sharply.
He looks at you in surprise; it is the first real command you have ever given him.
“Go over there and stay out of the way,” you say, pointing to the far end of the platform.
He silently obeys. You are saving his life. He was destined to be slain by the hero; the death acceptance form was signed this morning. If you survive you will have to answer for rescuing him. Just like you will have to answer for the empty gun.
The ESTJ hurls the last of the guards aside and leaps for you. You draw your blade, and steel meets steel. His sweating face gleams luridly in the red spotlights. You glance down at his wounded sword hand and find it encased in a thick black glove. Your medical training tells you that he shouldn’t be using it so soon after the injury—for that matter, you should never have hurt him in the first place.
You decide then and there that whatever happens, you won’t hurt him again. Even if they demote you to a lowly priestess of toilet scrubbing, you would rather do that for the rest of your life than cause him pain. I'll never hurt you, you think, gazing into his eyes through your crossed blades. Never again!
The force of your resolution translates to a particularly overpowered snap of your blade. The ESTJ gives a cry of surprise as his sword is torn from his weakened hand. The weapon clatters along the platform and disappears into the maw of the volcano.
For a moment there is stunned silence. Then he throws himself at you, intending to kill you with his bare hands. You half-raise your sword, automatically thinking to defend yourself, then drop it. Never again.
He knocks to you the platform. You gasp as all the wind is knocked from your lungs. The remote control goes flying out of your hand. He drives his fist into the side of your death mask, a move that hurts him more than it does you. You try to push him off, but you are small and he is large. With a snarl, he rips the death mask from your face, fist poised to strike—
Your eyes meet his. Everything stops.
“You?” he stammers.
“I’m sorry,” you whisper. “I never wanted any of this.”
He makes a choked noise.
Lady Allesenda appears in your field of view. “What are you doing?” she cries. “Kill him—her?” She gapes in astonishment at your revealed visage, then her cheeks turns an apoplectic red. “If you won’t throw her in, than I will,” she snarls, grabbing your arm. Your mind knows that it is your prophetic destiny to be thrown in, but your survival instincts don’t know that. You shove her away, hard.
“Darling, help,” she whines to the ESTJ Underlord, clutching your arm where you pushed her.
He clenches his teeth, and you know what he is thinking. He has to throw you in. The Manual demands it. The gods demand it. The ancient prophecies must be fulfilled. You have to be stopped.
Lady Allesenda notices your fallen sword and picks it up. A vicious light comes into her eyes.
Seizing the opportunity provided by the ESTJ’s hesitation, you hurl your weight to the side, knocking him off balance. Flailing your way free of your tangling robes, you clamber to your feet. The remote control is lying nearby. You snatch it up.
Nothing seems to matter anymore.
“No one move or I blow the volcano!” you yell, holding the remote aloft. “I am the Shadow Lord, Master of Evil and Chaos. I control this cavern. I hold the lives of everyone in my hands. I am all powerful!”
You hurl the remote into the volcano. “I hereby declare that this volcano will be shut down. I release my slaves. Those who have been driven from their homes will be repaid and have their land restored. Any man who dares defy my will shall be thrown to the dragonbats. Let my words be written into the Sacred Operating Procedures Manual for all eternity.”
A hush falls over everything. As Shadow Lord, you can do anything you want. You just weren’t supposed to. The ESTJ stares at you in open mouthed astonishment. Your ISTJ Sentinel minion is looking at you as if an alien has possessed your body. Lady Allesenda quivers with rage.
In a quieter tone, you add, “I also decree that the hero shall not be obliged to marry against his will.”
The ESTJ meets your eyes, and an understanding passes between you. The next thing you know, your adversary strides forward and draws you into his arms.
“My lady,” he says simply.
You press your cheek tight against his heart. “My lord.”
“You can’t do this,” Lady Allesenda blurts. “She is—that’s not what the prophecies say—”
The ESTJ smiles at you. “The prophecies say that I will stop the Dark Lord and rule the cavern. The words of Byuros and Crassia are now fulfilled.”
He strokes your face, his fingers warm on your skin. There on the rim of your volcano, in front of your minions and his would-be heroine, you share your first kiss.
You are the last of the Shadow Lords. In a thousand years, there will be no new catastrophe to threaten the Cavfoor and its inhabitants. There will, however, be legends of a wise, noble ISFJ queen who once ruled at the side of an honorable ESTJ king, filling the cavern with peace and prosperity. Your descendants will be proud to count you as their ancestress. And so you live happily ever after.