Chapter One – Times of Change
Are we truly alone in this universe? A question that passes through the minds of all sentient creatures at least once in their lifetime. A question that many who live and breathe today will never know the answer to, yet one that once was answered simply by looking towards the stars above. Life as we know it in this solar system we call home began upon two neighbouring worlds. The barren wasteland formerly known as Desolation, home to monsters and titans of whom only the bravest and most powerful warriors could dare to challenge, and the prosperous planet of Mars, home to a delightful race of creatures known as the gods. This race was much like humanity in many ways, only being visibly distinguishable by their paper-white skin and their stunning purple eyes. They lived in peace and harmony for countless millennia, co-operating with one another to build a magnificent civilization that expanded over the entirety of their home planet. And when space and resources eventually became sparse, they did what was necessary for survival. Unlike many other species, there was to be no quarrelling or violence. Instead, they helped each other as they had done before, and combined their great intellect and mastery of the innate force they named magic to send a portion of their race to set up a home on a whole new planet. Continuing this pattern of expansion, it wasn’t long before all planets, aside from the still feared Desolation, had their own colony of gods living within.
These planets and the gods among them continued to coincide peacefully for many years, learning from one another and growing together as if they were still confined to the same singular home. That was the case, at least until evolution took its toll. Living in such vastly different environments led to each colony adapting in their own unique and fascinating ways. Those living with the burden of heightened gravity for example gained great strength, while those close enough to feel the overwhelming heat of the sun gained a resistance to burning and an affinity for the magical manipulation of
fire. There were those whose intelligence rose far beyond average, those who had adapted to live underwater, those who learned to tap into the very forces of the universe itself. Such amazing abilities that if put together could have led to the creation of the ultimate race, if only they were kinder. For this was the time that the gods showed themselves to be no different from all the other species they believed themselves to be above. These new abilities brewed conflict, chaos, disarray. Colonies believed that their advantages made them the worthiest to rule the solar system, blatantly ignoring the fact that other colonies had powers they could only dream of wielding. This feeling of misinformed superiority spread throughout all of the planets like a disease, infecting the minds of even the most moral among the gods. War broke out between all for several brutal centuries, whittling down what was once the most prominent and powerful species this galaxy has ever known dangerously close to extinction. Fearing the end of their kind, a rogue group of gods fled to the only planet left upon which war would not dare move to. Desolation. They hid and watched on as the planets they once called home were destroyed one by one, and the last lights of their once proud race flickered away.
With nobody left to stop their rebirth, the renegade gods of Desolation began building their new paradise, making sure to respect the boundaries of the native beasts so as to not risk fading away like the rest of their kind. Having all been gifted with the delight that is biological immortality, these new gods quickly spread over Desolation, reaching even the farthest corners of the ancient supercontinent. All was happy once more. For a little while anyway. For a disease is not defeated until it is cured. And the hatred that seeped into their veins was a powerful disease indeed, regenerating the conflicts of the past within only a few new generations. With gods of different planets mingling amongst each other, their adaptations were merged, forming whole new abilities in their offspring. And with these new abilities, the hatred ignited once more, devouring entire cities in its heat. If left alone, this disease would be the end of the gods, the end of sentient life in our solar system.
So it was that humanity came to be created. A new race, born from the gods to replace the gods. A race to be better than they could ever be. The gods who agreed to create this infantile race defended it from all the dangers of Desolation, helping it to flourish across the entire supercontinent as the gods themselves had done before them. Though without cleansing their own disease, they could never hope to guide this new race to its full potential. There were gods who opposed the idea of humanity, believing themselves still superior to the race that was built to supersede them. For why would they allow themselves to be ruled by a species that can easily be crushed beneath a boot? Without the incredible strength, the innate magic, and the intelligence of the gods, these new humans seemed to many as a bunch of primitive apes clinging on to an undeserved sense of self-righteous pride. They sought to wipe these lesser beings off the surface of Desolation for good.
And perhaps they would have done, had they not been so well protected. There lived a god known as Dracellator. An incredibly tall god with an incredibly large set of muscles to match, he was the king of Desolation. Along with his unparalleled strength, he held the power to manipulate all elements to his whim, and to make things worse, he carried around a pair of axes, each of which contained a unique crystal that enhanced his powers even further. Even the shining golden armour he wore was said to be impenetrable. And then there was his pet, Umbrunae. A remarkable creature who had the body, legs, and head of a wolf, two enormous eagle-like wings, a tail that held a razor-sharp spike, and two long tusks protruding from its wide face. Instead of fur like a wolf or feathers like an eagle, this creature was covered in beautiful turquoise and violet scales that emanated an intense coldness at all times. It was so cold in fact that were its tail, tusks, or claws to penetrate the flesh of a foe, the impact area would freeze immediately and often shatter. Revered by most gods on Desolation, King Dracellator’s reign was unlikely to end any time soon. Unless, of course, if someone were to do something about it. Unless someone found a way to end his life. With his ban on the breeding of gods, every year brought him fewer challenges, while he himself only seemed to grow stronger.
But there was still one who could pose a threat. One god who had such tenacity and creativity, perhaps even enough to find a way to counter the strength and prowess of his foe. That god sat on the throne of the city of Lutum, the largest city outside of the king’s capital of Divitomae. This god known as Lord Ferumcertaele had concocted many schemes in the past, almost all leading to the death and devastation of his own followers. But there was something different about this plan. Something so crazy and so bizarre, yet so simple and so easy to see. He asked himself a question. Just one. If the gods of Divitomae could make their own race, why couldn’t he? And why couldn’t his race be more powerful than any god who ever lived?
And so was set into motion his most simple, yet most ambitious plan. With the help of his most trusted allies, he would create the ultimate lifeform, a being of unlimited potential that would free Desolation of the tyranny of humanity. And it was going to be done in the very heart of his kingdom, right where everybody who followed him would see it. His city was rather fascinating to behold. At the centre, an enormous cone-shaped palace, home to Ferumcertaele, his most trusted allies, and the strongest warriors of his personal army. Surrounding the palace was one of the biggest farms known on Desolation, spreading out for many miles in a beautiful circle. And finally, on the outskirts of the farm sat the houses of the workers, a little dull and dingy, but enough to survive in. On the average day, the farm would be bustling with workers, hacking at the weeds, picking the vegetables, reaping the wheat. This, however, was not the average day. This was the day Ferumcertaele would unveil his success to every citizen of his city, and as such, they had all gathered in a dark cave in the catacombs deep beneath the palace, where no spies of the king could hope to find them. Stood upon a large wooden stage in the centre of the cave were five gods, surrounded by thousands of hopeful spectators, all of whom were wondering if after all this time their leaders had finally achieved the impossible.
“Welcome everyone, to the beginning of our salvation!” announced Ferumcertaele, a short and sickly-looking god who by some miracle managed to inspire confidence with every word he spoke, no matter how inane many of them tended to be. He wore long black robes like most gods, distinguishing himself from the rest with the golden crown sat atop his thinning grey hair.
“I believe there are some newcomers among us today, so allow me to introduce myself and my esteemed colleagues. I am Lord Ferumcertaele, the ruler of this city and of all forces who wish to oppose the tyrant, King Dracellator”, announced Ferumcertaele proudly as he gave an elegant bow.
“This is Síondraga, the most skilled user of magic in existence, as well as one of the most intelligent gods ever known!”
Síondraga also gave an elegant bow that was almost identical to Ferumcertaele’s. He was a particularly handsome god with flowing blond hair, though his good looks were often besmirched by the look of disdain that often stained his face.
“This is Wolf, the trainer of our army and the most fearsome warrior you will ever meet!”
Wolf gave a grunt and tilted his head forward slightly. He was an enormous god who towered over most others, almost matching even King Dracellator in size and muscle mass. Much of his face was obscured by a bushy silver beard, hiding many of the scars he had accrued over countless years of battle. Unlike most gods on Desolation, his eyes were a gleaming silver rather than the natural purple, owing to a mysterious upbringing that even those closest to him knew little about.
“This is Blade, an alcoholic with a big sword”.
Blade raised a hip flask and took a swig, clearly not caring about the fact his leader just tried to insult him in front of all of his followers. Blade was a very untidy and rugged-looking god, though, despite his appearance and Ferumcertaele’s clear disliking of him, he was famous across the planet for his skill in combat. He always carried his giant broadsword known as the “Nightmare’s Edge”, which had several different coloured runes embedded within, allowing him access to abilities that he wouldn’t be able to use naturally.
“This is Dokiocus, master of stealth, illusions, and creeping people out”.
Dokiocus laughed maniacally as he gave a bow that lacked the elegance displayed by Ferumcertaele and Síondraga. As Ferumcertaele suggested, your first sight of him would not be a pleasant one. He often carried a malicious grin on his face, his body sporadically twitched, though most prominently in his left eye, and he laughed loudly and often, more so during the most inappropriate of times.
“And this”, said Ferumcertaele as he pointed to a chalk circle that had been drawn into the stage the day before, within which sat several vials filled with brightly coloured and frothing liquids. “With our final adjustments, we will now create the most fearsome, the most incredible, the most powerful creature this universe or any other has ever known!”
Each of the five gods on the stage walked over to the circle and slit one of their wrists, allowing their blood to drip onto the chalk. As the last drop hit, a blinding purple light erupted from the centre of the chalk, bringing with it a powerful gust of wind that knocked over many of the spectators. And when the wind and light finally died down, there he was. The ultimate lifeform of Ferumcertaele’s dreams, the saviour of Desolation.
“Meet our ultimate weapon against the gods who would dare protect humanity. This is the Aangshin, our angel of death!”
Aangshin stood completely still. Mere seconds ago, he was nothing more than an empty soul gliding thoughtlessly through space with no senses nor emotions, yet now he was here, a fully-grown adult surrounded by a screaming audience. Much like a new-born baby would be in this situation, Aangshin was considerably overwhelmed. This new creature looked almost identical to a god, all except for his dark yellow eyes and the purple birthmark that covered most of the right side of his face.
He had scruffy brown hair and was thinner than most gods. To the untrained eye, it would appear as if he were nothing more than a malnourished god with a few physical disorders, yet the crowd continued to cheer, perhaps inspired enough by Ferumcertaele’s praise to distract them from the underwhelming sight that existed before them. Though even in this society there was still at least one willing to question the apparent ineptitude of his leaders.
“THAT, is the ultimate weapon!?” asked Raibamule, a short god with a big temper. “I could kill that thing with one punch!”
The entire audience pointed and laughed at Raibamule, only silencing when Ferumcertaele raised a hand.
“Raibamule, is it? I assure you, this creature that stands before you is the key to our ascension to glory”, said Ferumcertaele confidently as he tried to hide his laughter.
“Then why not put it to the test? If it can beat me in fair combat, I’m sure the good people who have followed you throughout your endless failures that you call plans might gain some long overdue faith”, suggested Raibamule.
The audience laughed once again, this time even louder than before.
“I doubt you could even handle Dokiocus on your best day, yet you believe you can handle a lifeform of whom possesses the blood of some of the strongest warriors alive?” chuckled Ferumcertaele. “So be it. Come up here and prove how adept our creation can be at reducing rodents to ashes”.
Raibamule jumped onto the stage and raised his fists, eliciting even more laughter and booing from the audience. Aangshin however was neither laughing nor booing. Completely oblivious as to what was about to happen, he was smiling gleefully, thinking that the god who stood before him could potentially become his first friend.
“Hello! I’m Aangshin”, he said kindly as he stuck out his hand to shake Raibamule’s.
Instead of receiving the handshake of friendship that he so desired, he received a punch to the face that instantly returned him to the darkness that he had escaped from only a minute before. He woke up several hours later with an intense pain coursing through his head, surrounded by the five gods who stood alongside him on the stage before. They were arguing amongst themselves, unaware that he was now listening.
“You said he would be better than any of us! You swore on the Divines themselves that nothing could go wrong!” shouted Ferumcertaele.
“Well he would have been perfect if you had given me the extra month I asked for, rather than rushing ahead as you always do!” retorted Síondraga.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, why take your anger out on each other? We could hunt down that Raibamule fellow aaaannnnnndddddd rip him limb from limb, until he’s nothing more than a head rolling around on the ground, BEGGING FOR MERCY THAT SHALL NOT BE DELIVERED!” cackled Dokiocus menacingly.
“As entertaining as that could be”, said Blade thoughtfully as he ran a hand down his sword. “Your marital squabble has woken up the baby. Perhaps you should deal with that first?”
“And why must I always be the one who is held accountable for everything? It’s you morons who mess up every last one of my perfectly infallible plans!” continued Ferumcertaele, ignoring Blade and Dokiocus entirely.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any talking to either of them for a while”, grunted Wolf, who was leaning against a wall in the far corner of the room, staying as far out of the arguments as he could. “Any plans for this evening, Blade?”
“The pub is sounding pretty good right now. I’d wager there will be some interesting fights breaking out tonight”, shrugged Blade.
“I could have guessed that really, couldn’t I?” chuckled Wolf. “Well, I’m going to take the new blood to the farm. Dokiocus, you’d better come too. Those two are already aggravated enough without whatever it is you appear to be scheming”.
“Hmmmmmm? Well, if you insist, dear Wolf”, sighed Dokiocus, his eyes and mind snapping out of a mental simulation of how he would heat up the arguments. “I suppose I can rekindle their HATRED later, HahaHAHAHAHAhaha”.
“Indeed”, said Wolf casually as he picked up Aangshin and headed towards the farm, Dokiocus following closely by his heels.
It was midday now and several dark clouds filled the sky. Being the middle of winter, a harsh chill clung to the air, nipping at the skin of any brave enough to step outside. Much of the farm was incredibly overgrown as many inhabitants of the city had been working tirelessly for months to help aid the creation of Aangshin. Many were sent to far off lands in search of mythical remedies, while others worked endlessly in mines trying to find various minerals that may be of use, leaving little time and few workers to tend to the now enormous plants. Fortunately, the sheer size of the farm, as well as the speed of which Wolf alone could tend to it in his limited free time, meant that the small percentage that had been tended to was enough to feed all the citizens of Lutum, while also fulfilling the taxes imposed by the Council of Divitomae. With anger in their hearts, most of the workers returned to their homes rather than returning to their jobs, leaving plenty of room for Wolf to teach the newly born Aangshin how to farm. He gave Aangshin a scythe and showed him how to reap wheat with it, which he did surprisingly skilfully, while Wolf and Dokiocus gathered vegetables into a cart.
“So, I’m guessing you have questions?” asked Wolf after Aangshin seemed to be working without having to think about it too much.
“I wouldn’t even know where to begin honestly”, replied Aangshin.
“Well, tell me what you do know”, said Wolf.
“My name is Aangshin and I was born from the blood of you five. That’s about all I figured out from the shouting and screaming”, explained Aangshin.
“Síondraga really could have used that extra month, couldn’t he”, chuckled Wolf. “Let’s start with the basics. There are three main races on this planet we call Desolation. Us gods, who came from afar to settle on this world, the humans, who were created to replace us, and those who dwell somewhere between monster and sentient life, who often hide away in the darkest crevices of the continent. Many gods, such as us here in Lutum, have grown to dislike the humans and wish to remove them from our world. However, this is not currently possible. The allies they have on their side are far too powerful for us to defeat as we currently stand. That is why you were created. You were born to be the perfect weapon to destroy both humanity and any who would protect them”.
“Why are we gathering this stuff then? Wouldn’t it be faster to just go and fight those guys right now?” asked Aangshin naively, despite the fact his arms were already starting to ache just from farming.
“I admire your eagerness, but as we saw this morning, you aren’t quite ready for a task of that magnitude”, chuckled Wolf. “Our race is divided into two groups. The rich and powerful who live in the megacity that is Divitomae, and us poor folk who live and work in the cities and villages surrounding it. We who are less fortunate must provide for the wealthy to help them grow if we want to live. If we don’t provide enough to fit their desires, they send their strongest warriors to wipe us out, leaving so little behind as to make it seem as if we never existed in the first place. They claim the elimination of the weak is for the betterment of both the gods and humanity, but in reality, they see those falling behind as a problem better swept under a rug and forgotten about. The unfortunate truth is that we must stay on the good side of those in charge of Divitomae until we gain enough of a following to overtake them, or a powerful enough weapon to destroy them once and for all. At the rate we are going however, we aren’t going to reach that day any time soon. I am the most powerful warrior known outside of Divitomae, yet even I wouldn’t be able to take on Dracellator, the king of Divitomae and unrivalled ruler of all of Desolation”.
“So what do we do?” asked Aangshin.
“Weeelll, we toughen you up, young one”, suggested Dokiocus. “We build your strength, we sharpen your skills, we raise your power to unimaginable heights, and THEN, when the time is right, when your body and soul are strong and capable, YOU PLUNGE YOUR HAND THROUGH THAT ARROGANT SNOB’S CHEST AND CRUSH HIS HEART INTO DUST!”
“Quite”, said Wolf. “But for now, we will show you the ways of our world and teach you what it is to be alive.
We can get to the crushing of hearts later”.
“Oh, dear Wolf, why must you always leave the fun for later? We’ve already spent moooooonths of our lives building this child. I want to see it DESTROY!” moaned Dokiocus.
“You fools are always so impatient”, chuckled Wolf. “Running in head-first is only a valid strategy if your head is harder than your opponent’s. If you want fun, why don’t we take a trip to Gomastum tomorrow?”
“Ooohhh, so he’s not ready for combat but he iiissss ready for Gomastum? You know, sometimes I think you are crazier than I am, dear Wolf”, laughed Dokiocus.
“What’s a Gomastum?” asked Aangshin.
“You’ll find out tomorrow. For now, worry about getting as many crops in as you can before nightfall. Perhaps the temper of our lord will be lessened if we show him you at least have the potential to be a valuable farmer if the whole fighting thing goes to pot”, suggested Wolf.
And so, the three worked on until late that evening, while Blade drank his sorrows away, and Ferumcertaele and Síondraga argued endlessly back and forth. They all reconvened as the moon rose, when tensions had died down somewhat. Dokiocus, being one of the only members of the core team who knew how to cook, despite being by far the youngest there, prepared what he considered to be an amazing meal for everyone, in the hopes that this would keep the levels of shouting to a minimum. He cooked several different types of meats and combined them with the vegetables he had gathered that day, creating some bizarre-looking concoctions that he claimed were “ancient family recipes”, even though in reality he was just never really sure which foods complimented each other best. Not that anybody ever complained about this however, as it is often unwise to displease those who feed you, and especially those who are known to have access to poison and other such undesirable ingredients. The food was laid out as a buffet on the table of Ferumcertaele’s conference room, a large and mostly empty room reserved for only himself and his most devoted followers, only containing the table and a massive painting of Ferumcertaele hanging above a small fireplace. While eating, Wolf brought up his idea of taking Aangshin to the city of Gomastum, much to everyone else’s surprise.
“We’re taking lil baby Aangshin to Gomastum? Is it *hic* my birthday already?” asked Blade in a slurred voice.
“Technically it’s ‘lil baby Aangshin’s’ birthday”, snorted Síondraga derisively. “As much as we all adore our little family trips to Gomastum, do you not think it’s a bit premature to take our child there? If he can’t take a punch from a lesser god, how is he to handle the trolls, the minotaurs, or even the satyrs? I hear they’re growing more violent as of late”.
“Don’t worry, he’ll have all of us there to protect him. Have you not seen how wide the crowds tend to part when we walk through?” assured Wolf. “Besides, if he is going to be one of us, he needs to see why he should choose us over anyone else”.
“Truly wise words as always, though I feel I must sit this one out. I’ll need to be tending to the flames to begin the reparation of our follower’s trust once more”, sighed Ferumcertaele. “Tell me, Aangshin. What are your thoughts of our little family so far? It would be interesting to see how your opinions develop after a trip to Gomastum”.
“Sor- Sorry, what?” asked Aangshin with a full mouth. Having never eaten anything before, he was highly enjoying experiencing the wonder that is taste, and as such, he hadn’t paid attention to a word of the conversation that was floating around him.
“Well at least SOMEBODY appreciates my cooking”, laughed Dokiocus. “No offense my dear lord, but I don’t think you understand the minds of children, being considerably older than most beings yourself. Allow us to pick his brain for you tomorrow, when his stomach is satiated and his body rested”.
“If you insist”, sighed Ferumcertaele as he rubbed his forehead, trying to quell the headache that was quickly amplifying. “At least make sure you furnish him with a weapon while you’re there. It would be such a tragedy if our baby were to be bludgeoned to death by an errant ogre on the path”.
“I’m on it!” shouted Blade as he rose to his feet and instantly collapsed to the ground unconscious, snoring loudly within seconds.
“Whose turn is it to drag him back to his bed?” asked Wolf, hoping nobody would realise it was his turn.
“Why not have the newbie do it as part of his integration process?” suggested Síondraga.
With great sorrow, Aangshin left the delight that is eating, and with the help of Wolf, carried Blade towards the bedrooms. Blade’s room was rather cramped, though this was due to his uncountable number of possessions rather than a lack of size. Despite only ever using his infamous sword in combat, Blade liked to hoard as many weapons as he could, claiming “you wouldn’t understand”, whenever somebody asked him about his obsession. With a lot of clanking of metal and several small cuts, Aangshin slowly manoeuvred through the weaponry and tucked Blade into his bed, making sure to lay him on his side as instructed by Wolf to make sure he didn’t choke on his own vomit in the middle of the night. Wolf then escorted Aangshin to his new bedroom, a polar opposite of Blade’s, being cramped due to a lack of physical dimensions and only having a small mattress to occupy what little space was available. Despite the many months of planning that went into Aangshin’s creation, not a moment of consideration was given to the matter of where he would sleep until he lay unconscious on the conference room floor after being knocked out. As a new-born with no concept of what a bedroom should be like, this former broom cupboard that was renovated by Dokiocus in the space of about five minutes seemed to Aangshin to be the perfect place to sleep. Despite his overwhelming excitement for what the next day could hold, Aangshin was the first non-drunk god to fall asleep that night, keeping some of the others awake with the unwavering volume of his constant snoring.
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