Submitted by Abbaddon
A dark man sits slumped in the corner of the bar, nursing a lone glass of ale. He looks up as you approach, eyeing you warily.
“What?” he demands of you as you pause in front of him.
“I hear you have a tale to tell to those who are interested.” Your reply makes his eyes momentarily go wider, but then they shrink back down, even smaller than before.
“Really? And where did you hear this?”
“I know a guy who knows a guy,” you say cryptically, smiling smugly.
“He downs his remaining ale and nods.
“A man cannot tell a tale with a dry throat,” he says, shaking his mug slightly.
After a fresh drink is brought over, and he has a few mouthfuls, he clears his throat and stares off into nothing.
“My name is Abbaddon. I used to be one of Markov’s most trusted Generals. I commanded the 1st Legion, Markov’s most powerful army. I led crusades against the likes of Elbar and Ytrewtsu. That path I chose has now led me to become the broken man you see before you. But, like many good tales, I must start from the beginning.
I was once a simple boy, with simple dreams of becoming a knight in the temple of Markov, spreading his word to the unlearned in the land. And I achieved this dream, rising rapidly through the temple, until I could not but be noticed by the Ili’sion himself. On occasion, he would summon me to him and give me difficult quests for the church; quests that most others dared not touch, and those that did seldom returned coherent. I completed these not with ease, for they were fraught with danger, but I completed them nonetheless. On several occasions, I stumbled back into the temple, my willpower the only thing preventing me from collapsing.
The Ili’sion was very pleased with my efforts and told me that one day, I would become the most powerful champion of Markov in history. Being of pure spirit (at the time), I didn’t let all of the praise go to my head. But some did, and little did I know it, but the seeds of my downfall were planted that day.
Two weeks later, the church was called to assist in a great war against the returning minions of Ytrewtsu.
The knights and clerics from my church, and those of neighbouring townships, were called together and sent out to help the effort to stop Ytrewtsu. As the journey continued, we met up with other warriors from distant lands, united by a common foe.
Night fell on the 29th day since I had left my town, and I was going through my nightly prayers, when all of a sudden, on of the watch fires went out. No sound out of the ordinary was heard, just the sound of a fire quickly dying.
Glancing over there, I decided to have a quick look before turning in for the night. Strapping a broadsword to my waist and slipping my chain mail shirt on, I slowly walked over, mindful that it could be a trap. Getting closer, I thought that I could hear a faint sound, almost like nails clicking on stone. It stopped suddenly and so I decided to check it out. I headed for the place that I thought that sound stopped at and started to bend down.
Then, all hell broke loose.
I was grabbed from behind, getting me around the upper thighs. Almost losing my balance, I gave a great bellow and reached around to grab whatever had grabbed me. Clutching it around what appeared to be its head, I lifted it to head height and, in the pale light of the other fires; I could see that it was a goblin. The tiny form kicked at me, and squealed as it was hurled into the nearest tree.
But the squeal had alerted more of them, and they charged, hundreds of them, clawing and biting; stabbing and punching; using tooth, claw and blade. I killed dozens of them with great sweeps of my sword, but where one fell, four replaced him. Slowly, but surely, I was being pulled down.
The goblins toppled me over and, before I could get back up, were swarming over me. I was losing my strength and my chain mail was ripping under the shear multitude of blows. As I felt myself losing consciousness, I called out to my god to spare me. Then I remember nothing.
My fellow warriors tell me that a beam of pure, white light burst from the heavens and surrounded me; that I stood up, goblins hanging off me and proceeded to kill them by the dozens, with sword and fist; that I summoned fire to incinerate those outside my reach; that I even healed comrades, that had fallen trying to assist me, with my bare hands.
Now, I don’t remember any of this, supposedly Markov was angry at having his camp attacked and chose a warrior to possess in order to fight them off. This is the story that I first believed, but it was wrong. Boy, was it wrong.
Since that day, I began hearing a tiny voice in my head, a voice that said I should lead my own army to victory against Ytrewtsu. At first, I dismissed the voice, thinking it was only my ego talking, making me hear things that boosted my self-confidence.
After the nights ambush, the other warriors, seeing that I had been chosen by Markov Himself, elected me leader of this particular company. On a whim, I decided to listen to the voice and called out company “1st Legion”. It soon became clear to the men that I was a good commander. I was fair in my decisions, skilled in tactics, and didn’t shy away from battle. Before we had even reached the bulk of Ytrewtsu’s forces, we had cut down marauding parties of orcs and goblins, and stopped several raids on towns. With every victory, 1st Legion’s fame grew. And so did the voice. Now, I didn’t even make an effort to ignore it. It just became another suggestion to a problem that I faced. Sometimes I used it; sometimes I chose a better solution. But it was always there.
The day finally approached when we reached the setting of the battle that would decide the fate of Mankind forever.
The men in 1st Legion had already forgone their previous vows and now swore their loyalty to me, and would gladly follow me to the Abyss and back. The voice in my head began to say thing, treacherous things, about abandoning my faith, about joining the side of Evil and leading the men against the others on the side of Good.
And it didn’t sound quite so bad.
So, with the men willing and able to follow their leader anywhere, I quickly formulated a plan.
The next day, a messenger was sent to inform us that we would all be meeting at Dragon Pass to stage the final battle of a long and terrible war. My Legion, The 1st Legion of Markov, was to play a pivotal role in this fight. I was to lie in waiting, concealed by powerful magic, and attack the flank of the army as it was lured past us. This was a perfect plan, as Ytrewtsu would never suspect something so obvious.
The day arrived, and the troops had lined up against each other. The tension was thick; sparks were literally flying in the air as spellcasters from both sides summoned powerful energies to shield them and their allies. Each side waited for a sign that they should attack.
A fork of lightening flew from the skies and split a tree in half, setting it alight.
And so they charged.
For those that survived, they wished that it had not happened. To describe it to one that has not seen it with his own eyes is impossible. One must first think in terms of blood, both red and black, to get an accurate picture. Cries were heard; limbs were smashed; blood was spilled.
The forces of man, in accordance with their part in the plan, began to “retreat”, right past the 1st Legions position.
But they didn’t know that I had a plan of my own.
As they retreated past our position, we attacked them. The fact they thought that we would attack Ytrewtsu was their downfall; they were all killed with but minimal losses to 1st Legion. The voice commanded me to speak in a foreign tongue to the approaching forces and convict them we were on the same side. They accepted the response and allowed us to pass unharmed.
As you can imagine, Markov was infuriated. He vented his fury on my Legion, scattering men with winds and lightening. But the voice told me to stand still, raise my arms to the sky and open my mind to it.
A light surrounded me and I felt another consciousness fill my mind. Memories of a thousand lifetimes filled my head and I knew for certain which god had been speaking with me: Sainos”
The man looks up at you, his eyes meeting yours, and you can feel that there is a great sadness behind them, a sadness that can only be achieved by witnessing more than his fair share of sorrow.
“Now you probably don’t believe me, for this was a war that happened hundreds of years ago. But I was there, and I still live. It is a curse that Markov has placed on me, a curse that can only be lifted by defeating him a duel, one that all the gods must bear witness to.”
His eyes leave yours, their sadness now directed at the half-empty mug of ale on his table. He stirs in the chair, and you catch a glimpse of the famed weapons he carries: The Daemon Sword Drach’nyen and The Talon of Horus. A hungry light fills your eyes, for you have heard that these weapons have the power to steal souls from victims.
“Now leave me be, lest I be forced to use them.” He must have noticed something that you did, for he realised that you were looking at his weapons.
You leave a broken man to his ale, and spend the rest of the afternoon wondering if what he said was really true.