Beard lay still upon the rocky shore, his life blood seeping from the gaping wounds that riddled his broken body. The earth beneath him was sodden with crimson blood and the gulls dined on his regenerating entrails. How has it come to this? The warrior pondered. Beards fingers gripped the sand as yet another razor beaked gull flew down to feast upon his innards. The world began to glow blue, as it had so many times before since the re-born Isenshrike left his body torn and broken upon the step of the cursed creatures lair. His eyes clouded as the Revenant curse grew stronger, his mind filling with shadow as his a stream of creeping fog poured from his mouth, signaling the change from man to Revenant. NO Beard shouted to the darkness creeping within his mind. NO he whispered to the fading sensation of excruciating pain of being alive and torn apart. The Thorgithen knew pain, and now it was his ally more than ever for it reminded him that he was still a man and not yet cursed completely to a living grave.
With a sickening snap a large and glutenous gull pulled free a long strip of unrecognizable gristle from the warriors open gut. The fog receded from the warriors mouth, his eyes lost their unearthly glow. With all the discipline that had been beaten into him as a youth, the warrior had managed to focus upon the pain and bring himself back into the fold of men. The gull poised its head to strike once more into Beards open gullet, but the warrior surged with berserk strength and struck out with a pain gripped fist at the hungry bird. The creature disappeared in a flurry of feathers and with a surprised “SQAUK” as its body shot across the beach and smashed into the tall jutting rocks that surrounded the shore.
A loud CLANK, split the calm ocean air. A man clad in a robe and cowl of the deepest blue with dots of shimmering light, like it had been cut from the living night sky, walked across the rocky shore and examined the remains of the shattered gull.
“I don't believe that was entirely necessary” the man remarked as he pealed the gulls body from the stone. “But no matter, some damages are not so permanent.”
The man held the birds crumpled form close to his face and whispered strange words beneath his breath, it seemed as if more words came from his throat than his lips were shaping and the air around the bird seemed to thicken. Bit by bit, scattered feathers and flecks of blood and gore leapt from their resting places and return to the body of the bird which was slowly rotating and taking shape once more within the mans hands. Though Sol was high in the sky, the world seemed to grow dark all around the strange trio, as if the very life light of Sol was being drained and placed into the whisperings of this sorcerous man. With a soft POP the thickened air around the bird dispersed and light flooded back into the world. The gull preened its feathers and then seemed to nod and thank the man before regurgitating the contents of its stomach into his hand and flying off unceremoniously.
Beard tried to lift his head but found that he was to woozy from his continual blood-loss to get a proper view. The man strode over to the fallen warrior and let the gruesome contents of his hand slide free and land with a sickening splash into the warriors gaping wounds.
“Do you know who I am manling?” The man boomed, his voice was like a thundering avalanche, it washed over Beard and the warrior felt more alert, his mind clear and free of the fevered pain and constant battle with his Revenant self. He did not reply.
“I thought not, perhaps this will jog your memory? I daresay I am embedded within there somewhere.” the man said as he removed his cowl.
Before Beard stood a man of preternatural handsomeness, his features of perfect symmetry, his eyes dangerously bright, solid black and specked with starlight like his robe. His hair was white as the driven snow and he wore upon his face a beard perfectly trimmed, with a mustache that curled upward slightly at the edges. The man smiled with gleaming white teeth and each was ended in a more sever point than any mortal man would have. But the most outstanding feature was the mans long pointed ears and the massive horns that grew out from the crown of his forehead and ran along his skull before turning up and spiraling out like those of the Rethan Antelope that inhabited the high mountains of the Godspire.
Beards eyes narrowed as his mind recognized the man from deep within his memory. During his first encounter with the demoness Vel'Naren, the warrior had seen the history of the Demon folk and before him stood a demon out of legend. Vel'Kuthan, one of the thirteen sorcerer lords of the ancient demon realm before the fall, one of the few who survived the sundering and the one who founded the scholarly path that all demonic men must walk to avoid the curse of daemon offspring. He also happened to be Vel'Naren's father. Vel'Kuthan the night king, the moons shadow.
Beard had seen the rage of a Thorgithe lord when his daughter had been a bit more amiable than she should with a man of a lesser class. The warrior wondered how a demonic lord, stepping straight from legend, would react to his daughter's relations with a barbarian man of the north. He also wondered how in the nine hells Vel'Kuthan managed to hide his massive horns beneath his cowl. Sorcery, the warrior thought with distaste. Though sorcerous devices now held his body together, the Thorgithen had no love of it.
“Ah yes, your memory seems to have been sufficiently jogged.” the man smiled as he spoke.
“You know, I really considered leaving you in this state, but I am afraid I dislike the outcomes of the Ebb that ripple out from you being here longer than your stay.”
The demon walked around the fallen warrior, examining his state and then began to search along the shoreline for something as he spoke.
“If I didn't know that you would probably survive it, and if I didn't have the knowledge that if I succeeded my daughter would never forgive me, then I would make a rather valiant attempt to send you in to Hunerhime or wherever you barbarians go when you shed your coil.”
Vel'Kuthan plucked a large piece of driftwood with a ragged and splintered end from its resting place wedged between two stones.
“So, as it is, I am going to help you under the condition that when the time comes, and you will know when it comes, that you give in to your selfish desires and make a decision that will be both rash and irresponsible, but in the end it will be best for my sweet daughter.”
Vel'Kuthan stood over Beards broken form the drift wood slung over his shoulder.
“That seems hardly a difficult choice to make. You seem to know my heart demon, and know that it is ever captive to your daughters whims.” Beard gurgled blood dripping from his mouth as he spoke.
“Oh it will be very difficult.” The demon replied. “Because in making the decision I have asked, you will be dooming your precious Thorgithe to burn away into ash and memory.”
Beard rose to speak, but at that moment Vel'Kuthan plunged the ragged end of the driftwood into the warriors bowls and pulled it dripping from him, like a giant gruesome paint brush.
“I enjoyed that.” The demon smiled. “But I am not being cruel, you are in far too bad of shape for me to work on you here and I need a little fresh blood to create a good workspace.”
Beard tried to stifle his wheezing breath, but it kept escaping from his punctured lungs.
Vel'Kuthan hummed while he worked. The demon used the blooded driftwood to draw a circle around Beard, embedded with strange and ancient symbols then stood over his creation and began to speak with the same doubling voice he had earlier. Though now his voice was more than a whisper, it was the crashing of the waves upon the shore, thunder in the mountains, and the groaning echo of the deep places of the world. The air around the two began to thicken and fill with refracted light and soon a study began to take form. There were books and chairs, bottles of strange liquids, and several cases marked “specimens” all dancing around in the strange clotted air. A loud CLANK rang out and the study came into focus becoming solid as the viscous air gave way to the crisp clear air of a well kept scholars study.
“I should have put something down before bringing you here.” Vel'Kuthan remarked as he watched the warrior bleed upon the richly woven rugs that decorated the floor. “Well, lets get this over with.”
The demon lord clapped his hands together and paced about the room. There were a large number of hidden levers and pull chains littered about the walls; one would not see them at first, but after the shift of a painting, the moving of a drape, the jostling of a book, they all came into view and Vel'Kuthan pulled each in a very specific order. With each device he pulled a loud CLANG rang out and the walls would shift and move, pipes began to replace books, and all around the study began to fill with steam. There seemed to be something familiar about the place as the room transformed. Beard seemed to remember something of this place, the sounds, the smells, even now he could hear in the distance a lilting tune hummed by a raspy voice far, far in the distance. A voice he had heard before, perhaps in dream, now locked away deep in memory.
The air in the room took on the same viscous quality as it had before upon the shore, though now it seemed even thicker, it muted all sound, and distorted Beards vision. Every so often he thought he could see Vel'Kuthan chanting away, his brow furrowed and his eyes blazing with otherworldly light. All around the room the pipes were billowing cool steam into the gelatinous air. It seemed to be contained within the space surrounding the warrior, trapped, as was he, in the strange net that Vel'Kuthan wove.
Beard felt his body begin to pull together, his blood falling back into place, his bones knitting, his skin mending. But before the warrior was fully restored he caught a glimpse of the demon lord collapsing, his lips failing to keep up the chant, his eyes closing in exhaustion. Beards ears were filled with the sound of countless gears grinding to a halt and the bursting of pipes. CLANK.
The sound of the ocean filled the warriors ears. He lay once more upon the blood soaked shore, but now he was in far better shape. He could move a little, enough to swat the gulls away from his few remaining open wounds. He stared down at his toes and managed to will one to move. A familiar scent blew in upon an unseasonably cool breeze... the crisp smell of blood and winter. Beard heard the padding of massive paws upon the rocky shore.
Now there is a face the warrior had not seen in an age. His eyes closed and his mind was filled with the blessed memories of the windswept snow of Thorgith