The heated ore cracks in the campfire, providing heat and lights for the five men around it. Even though the streams and rivers of molten rock surround them, the ground they sit on is surprisingly cold, almost freezing.
‘Hey, Baris, throw another rock into the fire. Creator knows it could be freezing in here without it,’ one of the men yells. Baris, a renowned commander of the Eternal City, and a former captain of the temple guard. Once stationed at the heart of the city and near the seat of the Creator, only to be shipped away to the entrance of the pit.
The entrance is an archway carved into the cave flooded by lava and hidden somewhere no one could find it.
Without hesitation, he throws another heat stone into the fire. Another lets out a deep sigh.
‘Why do we even maintain a presence? It’s not like anything ever happens here.’
Baris stares into the fire. A feeling of expectation eats away at him, though is comrade is right, nothing ever happens down here. Yet this posting was added to the board on recently. Maybe the Creator or the council is expecting something?
‘You’d better thank the Creator that nothing ever happens here. Do you know where that archway leads?’ Baris asks, not breaking eye contact with the fire. ‘Primordials - daemons from a time before the Void, the same daemons the Creator, together with Aerus and Meara, bound and locked away. The ones imprisoned here are stragglers, the ones they missed.’
‘I think old age finally got you, Baris. There is no such thing as “Primordials.”’ One of the men scoffs.
‘I saw him once,’ interrupts another, ‘this Aerus character. He has horrific power, able to cleave the mightiest beings in half with just a snip of his fingers and summoning fierce creatures made of stone.’
‘And I am the Creator’s bride. You are just making that up,’ counters the man sitting opposite of him. A discussion breaks out, the
men telling tales and fantasies of what they think they saw. But not Baris. No, Baris merely waits, for he knows something is coming.
Footsteps in the distance, heavy, clumsy footsteps. Through the bickering, Baris hears them come closer, one step at the time. ‘Silence, someone’s coming!’ Baris whispers to the others. The group jumps up, facing the source of the footsteps, weapons ready to be drawn.
From the shadow emerges a hooded man, completely covered in brown robes.
‘Who are you? This place is forbidden for all but the Eternal Guard!’ Baris barks at him.
Not responding, the man keeps his wide malicious grin hidden under his hood.
‘How did you get here!? Answer me!’ Baris commands him again.
Baris draws his sword from its scabbard, and so do the others, ready to strike the unknown figure.
‘With all you years of wisdom, you still ask the wrong questions,’ the man says.
‘Last chance—why have you come?’ The man raises his head.
‘I have come, to release you!’ With his words, he produces a small dagger and throws it at the closest guard with speed and precision. In a flash, the dagger buries itself in the chest of the young soldier, killing him. His lifeless body falls to the ground. Another charges the hooded man, fueled by rage of seeing his friend die. His blade never connects with the attacker. The man nimbly takes a step back and thrusts another dagger into the back of his skull.
Only three defenders remain, Baris included.
One of the guards manages to take out his short bow and nocks one of his arrows during that time, and fires the arrow at the assailant as his comrade’s body hits the ground. But the hooded assailant catches it mid-air, crushing the shaft of the arrow with his grip. The two guards charge at the same time. The hooded man takes out his own sword, its blade black as night. With a single fluent move, he evades the guards’ weapons and cuts them both down. Baris now stands alone. Alone against this unknown enemy. He knows that a direct attack is pointless. That does not mean, however, that he is out of options. Baris raises his left arm,
pointing his palm towards the attacker. Then, from his hand, shoots a beam of blinding light. It scorches the already barren ground as it travels towards its target, engulfing it.
After a while, the beam dissipates. Nothing but ash lies in its path. The attacker is defeated, claiming the lives of four soldiers. Baris takes a moment to gather himself and regain some strength.
Baris stands over the first soldier who fell in the attack. A young man, probably fresh from the academy. Baris has seen a lot of these boys come and go. Always he did everything he could to make sure these boys were safe. Rarely were there causalities. But even as his body lies motionless on the ground, there might be a chance.
Baris carefully searches the pockets of the soldier, quickly finding a small blue crystal engraved with blessings. A wayward-stone.
Without hesitation, he crushes it and spreads the crystal dust over the body and takes a step back. The dust begins to glow brightly and slowly raises from the body. In the dust, a figure - resembling the young man. He looks at Baris without saying a word and disappears. The wayward crystals sometimes send the souls of fallen soldiers back home, where they can sometimes be saved from their permanent demise.
But even then, these wayward crystals are not designed to work that way. Baris repeats the gem-crushing for every fallen soldier. Maybe he’ll see one of them again someday. Suddenly, he feels a throbbing pain in the back of his head as he is hit with something heavy. He falls the ground, quickly losing consciousness.
The pain in his head is immense. Everything hurts, his sight only slowly returning. He tries to move but finds himself chained up with iron chains to two boulders. In front of him stands the attacker. ‘Last chance to ask, old man.’ A grin barely visible from under his hood. Baris realizes that the portal to the prison has been primed, as energy swirls like a whirlwind into the center of itself, lightning shooting from one glyph to another.
‘Whom do you serve?’ Baris utters, every word causing physical pain.
The man takes off his hood, revealing a deformed face, littered with scars. ‘You will meet my master very soon.’ He laughs as he
turns around to confront the magical vortex leading into the prison.
In his right hand, he holds a mask, seemingly made from a white stone with great delicacy and crafted with great skill.
‘Ri-Kha shal va!’ he shouts at the vortex while holding up the mask. Then, from the portal shoots a beam of darkness, touching the
mask and quickly consuming it. The white stone turns black as the darkness covers it. From the vortex emerges a beast without solid form, a massive, shadowed creature. It shoots beams of darkness at the man, tearing this skin off and quickly replacing it with carapace until almost nothing of him remains. Then the shadow being turns to Baris.
‘You fight for the Creator. He who locked me and my kin away,’ it states in a deep growling voice.
‘Do you know who I am, lesser creature?’
Baris coughs, the cave is slowly filling up with gases, making it hard to breathe, or to keep paying attention to everything that happens in front of him.
‘You are a primordial deamon,’ he answers wheezing.
‘Ignorant whelp! You and your kin know nothing!’ it screams, shooting a beam of pure dark at Baris, hitting him in the stomach.
‘I am the Tyrant! The first and highest of my kin!’ it declares. A few paces away, the man kneels and praises the formless being.
‘This one seems to remember my name,’ turning its gaze to the man.
‘You did well.’ Then bringing his attention back to Baris, he says, ‘My decree still holds, as it did before: all shall be as it was before. I will rule this realm and all others! And all shall praise and serve me! For I am the first! And I will be the last!’ ×