It seems so long ago, that time when I once believed.
I’d been ready to face my enemies of all kinds, be it my own kin or ancient entities in mortal combat that day, prepared to fight and perhaps die for those innocents, people I didn’t know and never will. But I, Badou the Hedatary, found something there that I did not expect, something that no verse of the demon arts or lesson of the spiritual arts could prepare me for.
I am, or rather was, a soldier of the ancient Neolithic city, or general, if you like the more common name attached to the once greatest army, and am a servant to and believer in the strength of the Gods of the Stars. I trained first as a warrior, a man of spiritual yet deadly, learning to read the blade of spirits and send spirits to the other world, but I displayed unusual physical skill in my training to kill all that was my opponent and, at the behest of several older warriors, I began my service as a true elitist.
For several years after I left the acadamy, I’d hunted the marauding jungle beasts that plagued the outer villages as a missionary, such as the tiny, needle-toothed imps that lust for human flesh. I also spent some time policing lessor demons. I was content then, if only out of ignorance, but these are all memories of a time long past and lost forever, almost as if that life belonged to another, one who died and whose place on this poor earth was filled by me. My tale is that of an event much more recent, and therefore all the more horrifying.
A week later, I was joined a mercenary of the Assassin Guild in the great port of Mongolia, keeping order in the streets, when I received the message that would forever change my life. The note, delivered in the midst of a torrential rain typical of the spring by a breathless, soaking squire, said simply that the High Council had heard disturbing reports from the jungle settlements along the great river of So’harn Lake, and that I was to investigate and defeat any evil I found there.
I always did enjoy the rain; the clear, heavenly water seemed to wash away the corruption and filth, both physical and spiritual that seems to be second nature to cities and other collections of filth. I suppose its refreshing presence had something to do with the way I read the words that stained the tattered parchment without truly comprehending their meaning; after seeing the guild, I merely indicated my acceptance of the Council’s commands to the messenger, who had taken shelter under the rickety awning of a nearby fruit stand, earning a strident reproach from the merchant.
Maybe I’d wanted some time away from the city as well, since the drudgery of haunting the streets at all hours, watching for thieves plying their trade among crowds of drunken sailors and awed jungle dwellers, or for smugglers running furtively across the wooden walkways of the docks with their loads of illegal herbs and other idols, wore on my patience. Regardless, I prepared some supplies with measured haste, sharpened my deadly sword and dangers and set off into the hungry forest the next day, still ignorant of the true meaning lurking behind the hurried scrawl on the paper.
I soon came upon the clearing where the village was located; a circular patch of land cut clear by the jungle dwellers to serve as their home, and sighed with relief as the first of the thatch-roofed huts came into view. I slowed my pace and began to lower my sword, so as not to present an aggressive appearance to the innocent, and then stopped suddenly; something seemed wrong about the village. I didn’t hear any voices or anyone moving about in the huts ahead of me, although I saw a lot of smoke, probably from the cooking fires. I didn’t even notice that no sound was coming from the birds or the crawling critters who make there home inside there trees.
Then it came to me: blood. I smelt blood in the air, and burning flesh, fouling the wet air laden with the scent of plants and rot, and my sword swung back up into a guard position by reflex as I began to look around again, completely alert. Seeing no enemy yet, I invoked the name of God of Death to imbue my blows with holy power, chanted a quick prayer to the avatars of warriors and the saint of war, and then charged into the clearing.
Almost from the start, my mission began to change; like some magic beast, it constantly shifted forms, finally settling on the incredible sights. Barely hours after I had left the docks, another messenger reached me, a man clad in an unusually spiky black suit of armor studded with long skull like spikes, this time with orders to go instead to another village merely a few hours away, and serve as a temporary guardian for the frightened inhabitants.
This new command began to alarm me somewhat; I knew the Knight of the guild assigned to that region, and I had just received a letter from him several days previously, written in his flowing, princely script, detailing some of the concerns brought to his attention by the villagers. None of the stories he related gave the slightest hint that the laity there was in anything close to a state of panic, and I doubted that he needed help solving the odd property dispute. I began to question the man; what was wrong in the village? Where was the protector assigned to the area; should not one warrior be sufficient to deal with some jungle creature or ragtag bandit?
He seemed suddenly angry by my barrage of questions, refusing to offer any answers other than that the townspeople feared some sort of animal in the forest. When I persisted, asking what manner of threat demanded the services of a second soldier, he drew himself up, puffing his chest out like a proud rooster who does not know that he is destined for the soup pot tomorrow, and proclaimed that any more questioning of the Council’s decrees constituted faithlessness.
I quieted at this, though I remained wary; something about the messenger and the message itself had strongly reminded me of the way Evil blinds and manipulates unwitting Knights who seek only to follow orders. Too many of his words were designed to flatter and please, with not enough wisdom to prepare me for what might lie ahead.
The rain began falling harder, if such a thing could be possible without the intervention of the divine, as the messenger faded back into the deep mists of the forest, wispy vapours that smelled of earth and rot and life. Perhaps the stronger rains were indeed a gift from the Storm God; they took my mind away from the filth and lies of that would-be warrior. Then, I felt that it would be a black day for the world if ones such as he were ever made Paladins; now, I fear that the state of Order in this world could hardly be worse.
As I walked along the pathways leading into the darkness of the deep forest, the tapping of the falling water against my armour rose to a crescendo as the clouds loosed more tears, the pure liquid seeping through the joints of the steel plates to the leather padding beneath. Although I did enjoy the blessed coolness of the rain, more water ran over the sodden ground and pooled in the crude dirt path, making my journey slow. The mud grasped onto my greaves as I walked, almost as if the earth itself was trying to hold me back. Every now and then, my foot would end up on a particularly sticky patch, and I would have to pull hard against the muck, which held on with the desperate strength of a drowning man, before I came free with a wet popping sound, spraying globes of gooey mud. Once or twice, I fell into the soupy mess, struggling to rise against the pull of the earth. After the second time, I gave thanks to the spirits for stripping me of my vanity; I was such a mess that even a common peasant, who lives among his land and is almost one with it, would have reacted with disgust had he been in my state.
After following the directions of the messenger for about an hour, I sensed that I was near to my destination; the shrill calls of the monkeys in the trees no longer rang out, and there seemed to be fewer birds and other animals moving in the depths of the forest. As I neared the village, which I could see by the light of several torches placed outside, I realized with some displeasure that there was a tributary of the great river separating my position from the main portal in the crude stone walls, and that there was only a pair of tree trunks lashed together by vines to serve as a bridge.
I eyed them apprehensively for a minute, then gazed towards the silhouettes of the huts and the low stone wall, took a breath and began to cross. You’re not going to let some river stop you from carrying out the Council’s command, I admonished myself. Have some courage; there are always obstacles to the way of the warrior. I was halfway across the rickety contraption, lost in my ruminations on faith and courage, when the wood beneath me inexplicably rotated and sent me flying into the river with a loud splash.
The village was in ruins; the mostly untouched hut I saw from the outside of the clearing was the only structure left standing. All that remained of the others were piles of blackened wood and grass, with shards of pottery and metal and scraps of flesh scattered across them like some vile hellspawn’s twisted mockery of a twisted garden. This dreadful spectacle, however, was nothing next to the awful monument to the Three that stood in the center of the ruins; a shoulder-high pile of innocent corpses, burning furiously, casting a greasy, smoky pall over the wreckage, and filling my nose with the horrid stench of Hell’s delicacy. I stood there, astounded at the barbarous cruelty of the minions of darkness; I had heard tales of their blasphemous creations, but no second-hand account could have prepared me for the horror I saw here, the visceral disgust and stunned amazement of seeing the destruction of so many innocents. I stared for the longest time, unaware of all around me save the hellish pyre, and then sank to my knees, choking back sobs and anger
I’m not too proud to admit that I was shaken beyond words, and that I cried for the villagers, for souls I had failed and never would know. I could have dealt with that, though, could have moved on, continued serving the Council and the spirits as I did before; as horrible as that was, it was not why I am here now, sitting on a crate in the old, disreputable part of the docks, pondering my fate with, for the first time in my life, no guiding teachers to show me the way.
I rose to the surface seconds later, gasping for breath, more out of shock than actual need for air. The river wasn’t much colder than the rain, and I’d been soaked through already, so there was little to distract me from the task of staying afloat as I looked around hastily. I was caught up in a strong current of water, bobbing along like a piece of wood, almost helpless in the grip of the current, stronger than a miser’s hand on his purse. My vision was largely clouded by the spray of the river combined with the curtain of falling rain, but I noted unhappily that the flow of the water was taking me away from the village, towards the mighty Gen’tek forest itself, and that a good portion of my supply pouches had been lost in the fall.
I have no idea how long I spent in those swift waters, beating my way across the current towards the shore. Several times my strength began to flag and the weight of my armour dragged me below the surface, but by the grace of some unknown strength, I managed to surge back up and keep fighting my way through the river. When my arms could no longer propel my battered body through the rushing tide, I said a prayer to the God of war, took a breath, and then dropped beneath the churning, cloudy froth, resting for precious seconds before erupting back out, spraying and spitting water.
With all my efforts focused on breathing and moving out of the current, I would have been an easy mark for any river beast; I count myself blessed, or perhaps cursed, that I did not encounter a school of the hungry little fish-demons that tear apart anything foolish enough to swim, or one of the deadly watchers, the snakelike beings that seem to infest every pool and stream. I suppose removing some of my armour would have made my going easier, but I did not want to sacrifice my implements of war to the river, for I believed that I would need them once I got out and returned to the village. Little did I know that they would be no protection against the final sights of my journey.
Finally, as the shadows of the trees grew into a forest of darkness with the setting of the sun, shrouded by a blanket of grey cloud, I struggled into the shallows of the river and stumbled out onto the bank, managing to gasp out a thanks to the War God for my survival before collapsing. I was exhausted, more so than I had believed possible. Nothing I had ever done had left me this drained, not even the rigors of warrior training. I rested there, shivering violently, for what seemed like an eternity, my helmeted head against the soft grass and dirt, my greaves sinking slowly in the wet mud of the riverbank. Then, after I had regained a degree of mastery over my aching, weary muscles, I called upon an arch-angel of hope to watch over me in my weakness, and fell into a deep, blessed sleep.
After I awoke feeling sore but renewed, I moved my head from side to side and listened to the bone complain in sharp, snapping outbursts as I tried to discern just where I had ended up after escaping the bitter grasp of the river, squinting in the morning light as it pierced the clouds. Upon seeing the width of the river from which I had so recently emerged, I judged, with great surprise, that I had been swept by the force of the tributary into the flow of the Gen’tek forest itself, and I had apparently managed to traverse the raging current of water without drowning. I gave thanks to the Warrior God once more, awestruck at the strength of human determination and will. No one I knew, not even the great lords of the Council in their prime, had ever succeeded in crossing the hungry river without a sturdy boat and yet, he managed to do it. Perhaps the God of the Stars were truly watching over him yet….he found something within him that is beyond anything he can comprehend. Something dark….
That was when I heard something within my earshot. It registered to me that the sound was of something terrible and large. I quickly turned around and came face to face against a monster of monstrous size. It’s foul breath could be felt even twelve feet away. Muscles under that flabby stomach could be seen as something as powerful. It’s tusk jutting upwards from under its mouth, yellow and broken. It’s large club the size of a tree trunk was held with it’s right hand like a I would hold a light sword.
I felt a chill creep down my spine. Cold, wet and hungry, loosing my sword within the depths of it’s sea, I felt the quickening of my heart beat. The pit in my stomach rumbled like uncontrollable animals pounding from within when I realized that the troll was smiling. It lifted it’s large club ever so slowly and with a growl, the club went down on me like a thunderous hammer….
Darkness, unadulterated darkness that ate away at the light with feverous vulture upon a dead creature. Badou opened his eyes, eyes glittering within his empty tower, eyes that ate away at the light. Fowl and madness run through them as he felt his memories when he was once a human. It has been over two thousand years since he was a human and still he cannot get rid of his past. Yet, he was wise enough to accept his past as a human to move on and learn from his experience.
Getting up from his throne, he disappeared through a portal he opened from using magical energies. His own teleporting powers are useless and used more on battling his enemies then teleporting. A magical portal serves him well enough in getting him where he needs to go.
And it was time he felt the need of chaos reign under the human world with his own hands rather than manipulation. It was high time he felt Badou felt the thrill of battle once again. However he was here for another reason. Since his eternal life and most of his power was gone, he needed to use a ritual to become a God Demon once more. And in order to do that, he needed to kill and collect at least a million souls. And with all the sentient beings that die by Badou or En’Mos are automatically collected within the Soul crystal.
Stepping into the city, his ebony skin shined under the sunlight. His armour felt light and comfortable. And with a smile he bent over to look at the ants that crawl down the streets from high atop the building he was standing upon. With nothing more than telepathic thought, Badou called his pet En’Mos’ to battle. And seconds later a large portal opened up. A growl so violent and so terrible, the many birds and other small creatures dropped like stones…dead. Glass from every store and every building shattered. Its large head bobbed from the portal, its entire serpentine like body was seemingly so large it was unimaginable for any human to comprehend.
Badou the Hedatary smiled as the large King of all dragons opened its mouth, gathering energy for the fiery blast that it will unleash like raging inferno upon the city. With every gathering energy, its very essence of the fire was melting nearby concrete, windows and human flesh.The people panicked and fled the scene as if hell it self was upon them…and indeed it was as the great dragon released its magical flames seconds later. It was pure chaos, the city tore apart asunder. Flames of magical hell made it’s mark upon earth, leaving it’s signature for all to see. Smoke and flames, flesh burned to ashes, lava formed from every melted building.
He instantly willed his dragon back to his city once again, to protect it while he deals in overseeing the hundreds of souls are being collected as it should be. Badou took out a small white crystal that acts like a portal, a portal that attracts all the souls from the freshly dead and transports it to the “Soul Crystal”.