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Renaud de Guiscard




A shrine? A cemetery? He should have seen this coming. They'd meticulously planned every detail of this grail war, of course Caster would want to base herself in a nexus of magical energy. And her tone - Grandfather had always told him he needed to establish himself as the familiar's master, especially with a caster-class servant. A heroic spirit such as this might exploit any perceived weakness for their own advantage, perhaps even magically dominate their master if they deemed them too weak. A life of preparation and confidence came crashing down on him as, for a brief moment, it seemed to him as if he was doing everything wrong, and-

"If you believe it would be advantageous to do so, by all means," he replied dismissively as he got up to his feet, showing no hint of unease. "There is such a shrine in Sako, though it is beyond my current resources to commandeer it. Consider securing the site to be your first task as my servant, then." He checked the time lazily, as if unfazed by the feudal japanese sorceress that just materialized from thing before him. "I do not care how you achieve this, so long as the secrecy of magecraft is maintained."

"In the meantime, I am drained from my preparation and this ritual." Which he certainly was, he felt ready to collapse at any moment, his fatigue not helped by the steady drain of mana to maintain his servant. "I am going to sleep. I expect when I awake a servant of your caliber will be able to have secured a site for a workshop and make a report."

Without another word, he turned out of fog-filled room and into his own quarters, slumping against the door as he shut it.

Show no fear. Show no uncertainty. Hesitation is death.

For now, I rest, he thought. Then we find the other masters, and win the war. As he drifted to sleep leaning against the door, unable to put off his exhaustion any longer, his mother's words echoed in his mind.

"...And above all, you must win back our honor by destroying that Huang bitch."



G E N G H I S


The Khan of Khans watched the chinese witch work her strange magecraft, keeping a fascinated eye in spite of his bored expression. Truth be told, he did not think much of her when he was first summoned to this world. This was in part due to her evident wealth - he distrusted those who had never known privation or squalor - and partly because of her ethnicity. The Han and their southern kin were, in his experience, weak and cowardly, a people of serfs fit only to be ridden over, threatening only behind their damnable walls.

But it had not taken long for him to see that this woman was something fierce, worthy of being called his master. Even this strange ritual - mocking death in such a way, risking all for power? She, who had the appearance of a deer, but the heart of a wolf, was equal to any of his Noyans in life.

He was leaning against a wall, juggling his scimitar in the air and catching the blade with his hand, when she asked her question. "How would I win this war? Curious thought," he answered in a bored tone. "The answer seems obvious. Terror will not help us here, as our enemies will fight to the death. Destroy one, and the rest will turn on us as a threat."

"But as dangerous as a pack of wolves is, a lone wolf is easy prey. Division is our ally." Dropping his feigned boredom, he gave her a wolfish grin. "So we feign weakness. They will aim for the tallest trees first: we encourage this from the shadows. We seed discord, we provoke, we foster conflict and hatred amongst these warriors. When they are too distrustful of one another to form a united front, then we strike."

He spoke with complete certainty. He was not saying what might be, but what would be. He was the favoured son of Blue Heaven, after all.
Renaud de Guiscard



A black sedan pulled into the front of the Golden Plaza Sako Hotel. Nobody paid much attention to it: the four star hotel was one of the most expensive in the region, and as small as Sako was, it had a regular influx of wealthy businessmen and government officials who were not shy in their ostentatiousness. Of course, that the young man that stepped out was a foreigner solicited some curious glances, but even Sako had its international business. And dressed as he was in a black suit and sunglasses, he mixed right in with the crowd in the lobby. He was followed by an older man and woman, equally well dressed. The former pushed a trolley with suitcases and bags; the later carried only a slender black briefcase.

The receptionist, it can be imagined, was a bit perplexed to find himself having to deal with a trio of westerners. Just my luck, he thought, annoyed. He occasionally had to deal with foreign visitors, of course, but they usually had interpreters with them. There was nothing to do about it: he would have to rely on what little he remembered of his high school english classes. As he started stammering, though, the young man leaned onto the desk. He took off his glasses, and just looked at the receptionist with bored green eyes. And spoke in perfect Japanese, albeit with a strange accent.

"You're going to want to get your manager."
* * * * * *


"Sir, you don't understand. There's just no room."

In a large and meticulously ordered office, an old man sighed and rubbed his forehead in exasperation. He'd worked his entire life for the company, and managed to become the manager of the Sako hotel branch through fanatical adherence to company policy and a deep well of patience. But even that well was running dry right now. He was already up to his eyeballs in dealing with the conference visitors, he didn't need to deal with a foreign rich kid who didn't understand how a reservation worked. "There's... there's absolutely no room. Zero. Nothing. We're completely booked with the International Apiculture Development Conference, there are no rooms that I could offer you even if I wanted to."

The kid in front of him was just leaning back, fingers steepled, completely expressionless, looking at him as if he were an infant having a tantrum. "So make room," he said quietly.

"Make-" The manager blinked in disbelief at the spoiled brat's arrogance. "Look, there's a Golden Plaza in Oga that's more sizable, you might have better luck there. Or you can find another hotel in Sako. I'm sorry, sir, but there's nothing more I can do for you, I'm very busy and have other business to get to. Maybe try reserving in advance next time."

"I apologize, I must not have made clear who I am. I'm Renaud de Gusicard, heir of the Maison de Guiscard."

"I don't know who that is, and frankly I don't care."

"You should, you fool," Renaud snapped icily. "You see this watch? It's a Verriac, artisan crafted, one of a kind. It's worth ten times the car I rode here. I own it because my family is the oldest and wealthiest house west of the Rhine." He glanced back. "Louise! Sortez-le, l'ignorant mérite un lesson d'histoire."

One of the two figures behind him, a dark-skinned woman in her fourties, stepped forward, snapping open the briefcase as she did. The manager's objection was cut off with a gasp as he took in the sight of a beautiful golden scepter crowned with a double headed eagle spreading its wings. It seemed to glow. Or was everything else darkening in its presence?

Renaud leaned back and pulled it out of its case, and held it over the desk with both hands. "This is the Scepter of Chartres. Forged by an ancestor of mine, Lucbald de Chartres. Priceless, beyond what you can even comprehend. It's been passed down, uninterrupted, in my family for a thousand years. It was carried by the Guiscards who advised Capetians, Valois, Bourbon, and, occasionally, Plantagenets. If I were mad enough to sell it, I could buy your entire pathetic chain and tear this hotel down. I own it - or rather, my family owns it - because we are the among most distinguished and prestigious lines of Europe."

He gripped the scepter, feeling his mana feed into the mystic code as he stared, unblinking, in the old man's eyes. "So, when I tell you to make room, it's because it's an incredible honour for you to have me staying in this... fine establishment. Unless the prestige of having accommodate someone of my caliber does not interest you, or your superiors?"

The manager simply stared, mouth agape, unable to form a coherent reply for several long moments, his eyes unfocused. Suddenly, he shook himself off. "Yes, of course, I apologize. I wasn't in my right mind." His voice was faltering, almost dazed. "I'll find something. We can maybe... maybe get one of the guests a room in another local hotel, and pay for it as compensation."

"See that you do," Renaud said simply as he got up from the chair, putting his glasses back on. He took a moment to admire the scepter again, a faint smile coming to his lips, before placing it gently back in its case. Louise clamped the case shut.

* * * * * *


"What now, sir?" Maxime asked.

Renaud glanced at the two from the other end of the large suite they had been granted. It wasn't up to his usual standards, but he had to admit, for a small city it wasn't terrible. Three bedrooms, a lounge, a small kitchen, and all in western style. It could certainly have been worse.

"Well, now I do my part," he said casually. "We were fortuitous with the number of rooms, I'd say: One for you two, one for me, and another for... well, for my business. You can see the sights - what sights there are in a place like this, anyway - or go get something to eat, or whatever suits your fancy. I'm not planning on going anywhere. The rest of my day will be a bit tiring, and after all that travelling the last thing I want is another drive anyway."

Louise smiled. "That sounds perfect, sir. Maxime and I are going to check out a restaurant we heard about here, apparently it-"

"I really don't need to know the details," Renaud interrupted. He waved dismissively from the couch. "Go, have fun. While we still can."

It didn't do to be too close to servants, he reflected when he was left alone. That goes for aristocrats, and doubly so for magi. He knew the couple's names, their duties - to, as needed, cook, clean, and drive him as he pursued his war unimpeded by mundane matters - and that's about all he needed to know. They were paid, of course: while some mages used magic to control the minds of their subordinates, the Guiscards had long found that to be a crude and unreliable art. The human brain, faced with magical control, tends to resist, which always seems to cause incidents at the worse possible times. The Scepter was symbolic of his family's wisdom and mastery: instead of dominating the mind, true power came from suggestions, subtle and reasonable. Give the mind an idea, empower it with magic, trick it into thinking it had come up with it... that was true control.

Not that they were controlled that way either. As his mother was fond of saying: frankly, money ensures the loyalty of the common rabble far more reliably than any magic could.

Still, while after long service they were trusted to be blind and mute, Renaud found their presence inconvenient. The less involved they were with the Holy Grail War, the better. This was his war, and he wasn't so heartless as to want to see them caught up in it any more than necessary. A true mage of his caliber fights their battles alone. La noblesse oblige, after all.

He got up with a heavy sigh. No point in delaying. It was time.

* * * * * *


He had, in the end, needed to make some alterations to the third room. The bed, to his incredible annoyance, took up far too much of the room, and he had to spend half an hour dragging it out of the room's too-small door, cursing himself for telling Louise and Maxime to leave as he did so. But he eventually managed to get it into the lobby, his first victory in this holy grail war.

The floor space freed, he was able to begin drawing the summoning circle, using materials he had brought in all that luggage. This was not as difficult as he had feared, no doubt in part because he had practised this very ritual for two decades now. He did catch his hand shaking as he started: What's wrong with me?, he wondered. I'm... excited. Yes, excited. His entire life had been endless, brutal, agonizing training for this war. This was the culmination of his existence, his entire raison d'être. He couldn't be blamed for being a bit excited for that.

"Foolish boy," he could imagine his mother snear in his head. "Of course you can be blamed for that. Your incompetent hand will ruin the ritual. Control yourself. Your duty to your name is more important than your sentimentality."

"Careful now," he muttered to himself as he drew the lines. He did not make any errors, to his relief. His hand might be shaky, but years of drills guided him.

I think that's it. It's done. Everything was ready. All he needed now was...

He pulled a small box out of a coat pocket, and opened it. He pulled out its content: A small scrap of paper, ancient, lined with faded kanji characters. This was it, the catalyst that he'd been given. With this, he could summon...

"This servant is ideal for our cause," his grandfather, his voice frail from disease, had told him. "Summoned to her native land, her abilities will be all the more considerable. Of those masters we know in this war, none have a native catalyst such as this: in this way, with luck, we will be in an advantaged position."

"And also," his mother had interjected, "What we know of her legend indicates that she is, among servants, most likely to be attuned to our own desires. A servant who understands the importance of honour, of duty, of family... unity in purpose will lead you to victory more surely than pure power ever could."

Yes. That was all true. But in spite of all that - or perhaps because of it? - he felt nervous looking at this scrap of paper. He was about to summon a being on a level of existence far, almost incomprehensibly, beyond his own. One who was nearly the embodiment of his family's ideals. In a sense, his lifetime of effort and training was about to be put judgment. He silently prayed his power and strength of will would not be found wanting.

For the Maison de Guiscard.

He knelt to the circle. "Fill, fill fill...."




Alright, I admit I'm a neophyte in the Nasuverse so I had to dig around the wiki to make sure my stuff was kosher. Here's what I've got (WIP):

Are you still accepting joiners for this? Been dying for a HGW RP for ages!



In a valley in the Anchor of the World, tribes of humans fought over the river and fields and game. They had come far from their homeland in the Boreal Highlands, finding in the nearby gardens a bounty of life that let them thrive. Their forays there discovered plants that they had come to learn to plant, such as wheat and corn. This development of agriculture permitted their population to explode, to such a point that they now were locked in conflict with each other. Their competition was generally peaceful, occasionally violent, and rarely murderous. There came a day, however, when the down-stream tribe raided the up-stream tribe's village, putting it to the torch once and for all. They wanted an end to the competition, they wanted the valley to themselves. They did not know quite what to do next, however. They had burned the village down, but the peoples were now captive. What to do with them?

Some argued to kill them all, but others called that suggestion unthinkable and inhumane. Many more objected on pragmatic grounds, however. It seemed to wasteful to kill so many when life was already so hard! And so the chief, a fat and greedy, but undeniably cunning man, came up with the solution.

"We kill the ablest men, those most able to resist," he decreed, "and we take in the rest as part of our tribe."

"They will not want to join those who murdered their husbands and brothers," others warned.

"We will not give them the choice," the Chief said, smiling at his own thought, innovative among mankind. "They will join, or they will die. They will labor, or they will die. We will not need to prepare our foods or sew our clothes anymore. We will live lives of luxury and plenty, and they will serve." And so slavery was born on Galbar. It was as simple as that.




The lifeblood phased through the world, seen and unseen, twisting and churning. It bled with every moment more of its contents, spilling out god after god. Even those of weak concepts were now freeing themselves, thanks to the damage that had already been done.

Everything in this world has a Core, a central identity which defines it. A mountain is a mountain, a tree is a tree, a bird is a bird. A tree can no more fly than a bird can absorb sunlight. This applied to sapients, as well: Humans, Vrool, Elves, Alminaki, all individuals had cores that they could not escape. This applied to the gods as well - no, especially to the gods, who were defined by such core concepts that it gave them life. There was never a choice for Enmity to be created cancerous, or Boris wild.

As the hearts of man grew dark, another sliver of the Lifeblood was lost. When it was told its Core, however, it wept, for it was as cruel as any that could be.

It's identity was as simple as it was terrible...

To be enslaved.

No, more than that, to suffer, to weep, to gnash and scream, to face misfortune and tragedy and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain

Too soon, it was too soon, it didn't exist yet, this wasn't right, the identity depends on the prison, this existence was a contradiction, this was stillbirth. A name of a place rung in the god-embryo's mind, a name it couldn't understand because it didn't exist, but is should. It had to. They were linked. How could this be?

Whips cracking. The institution spreading. Tribe after tribe conquered, a tribe becomes a nation, a nation becomes an empire. Chains that bind the wrists. Slaves everywhere, even without chains, slaves to fear, slaves to hunger, slaves to ambition. Everything slaves to their own existence.

Explosive rage formed with agonizing despair as the god-embryo took a shape. Its time had come, but it was too soon.




The down-stream tribe had over the last decade become known as the Geldricks, a more proper name for the people that had conquered lands beyond the valley in every direction, particularly into the rich southern fields of the Gardens. They had crushed tribe after tribe, killing the warriors and enslaving the rest. Such was the size of their labor force that they could dedicate themselves to the art of war without worry of mundane tasks. Each warrior had many slaves to take care of all their needs; every waking moment of theirs was from then on practicing battle, preparing for war against other tribes and their own slave populations. The tribe split into several villages across the land. Their familiar foes, those who didn't succumb, adapted: they emulated their practices of slavery, which spread like wildfire across the Toraan as far as humans lived.

The slaves were kept docile through terror. Every year, the ten most disobedient slaves were executed in front of the others to break their spirit. They were sacrificed ritually when the game proved insufficient as an offering to the dark gods that they believed exist. Ironic, that the most evil deities existed only in their own minds.

It was a hot day of summer. The old man had toiled in the hole for a week now, tirelessly skinning the game he had been given and tanning their hides to make leather. The heat was unbearable and the insects were relentless, but he labored on regardless. He had no choice: he could not climb the sheer clay walls, not at his age and with his legs. And there was nowhere to go even if he did somehow escape. So he lived in that hole, processing the animals they threw down at him and returning processed parts via a basket they would lower.

So when he heard voices approach that day, he panicked and started to assemble the products of his labor. It was early! They shouldn't have come for another day now! He despaired; when he didn't produce enough, they would throw down rocks. He heard children laughing. He froze. Strange, they never brought children with them before. What did they want now? Couldn't they just leave him alone?

He looked up, and saw many heads emerge from the top of the whole. There were a half dozen boys and girls there, accompanied by a single hard-looking man. He knew that man: that was his tormentor, the one responsible for keeping him imprisoned and punishing him when he didn't obey. He shrunk back into a corner of the hole as the children pointed and mocked his unkempt appearance and filthy living space.

"...this creature, for example," the man above seemed to be saying. "Once, he was productive, but age has slowed him. Many other younger slaves could do twice the work for half the food. He drains us now, so we do what we must to keep the tribe strong. Now do as you've been instructed, children. You too, Herrek; if you don't have the stomach for this then you don't have the stomach to eat." The old man couldn't quite process what was going on, the man's uncaring tone clashing with his terrible words.

He saw the children picking up and holding rocks. "What-" he managed to let out, confused, before the first rocks started raining down. The smaller ones were little more than pebbles by with the drop they still hurt when they hit. The bigger ones smashed clay from the walls as they came down. One of those struck the side of his face, knocking in to his back. Still they continued to rain. he curled up into a fetal position on the dirt to protect himself. "Please, no, mercy!" he cried as the onslaught continued, but they didn't stop. Of course not. He was a thing, an animal.

And they were putting him down.




"Toshre." The Chained One.

The god-ling pronounced its own name as it came into being, rising from the earth itself. He did so with disdain in its voice, disdain for this world, and disdain for himself. He knew what that name meant. He knew what he was. And that realization broke his mind. No, it had broken his mind before he had such a thing.

Contradiction. "To be enslaved". Yet here he was, on Galbar. Where were the chains? As he rose, heavy chains materialized around himself, difficult for even a god to move. It made him want to laugh; chains alone didn't make a slave, but it seemed this reality had a keen sense of appearances. He rose to his feet, dragging the chains behind him as he lurched through the forest. Forest. Strange, this life. It seemed almost familiar. He must have seen this world while he was still part of the Lifeblood.

He felt his faceless face, knowing he would find no mouth nor nose there. All he had were his glowing eyes to mark his appearance. And his stature, of course; as he came erect he stood as a giant, nearly ten feet tall. He stumbled forward. As he dragged them along his chains carved deep grooves in the forest floor, cracking branched and crushing flowers. He walked without purpose.

Another contradiction: he was enslaved by his very identity, yet here he was walking free in the woods. Or was he free? Was this existence itself enslavement? No, this was all wrong. He shouldn't be here. It was time yet. It... that place, it didn't exist. But it needed to. He rested himself against a massive tree, and covered his forehead with his massive left hand.

This. Was. Wrong. Every fiber of his existence rebelled against itself. Was he the god of slavery? Or slaves? Both? Was he master of the whip or chain? He was all of that, he knew, but that made no sense. His mind shattered as he continued to trudge through the woods.




After some time - how much time? He could not know, it might have been minutes as easily as decades, it all seemed to feel the same to him - he came upon a strange sight. In a clearing was dug a sizable hole, some ten feet across. Walking to its edges and looking down, he saw a terrible sight: the motionless carcass of an old man, his body broken. Dry blood was caked across the bottom of the pit. At first, comprehension defied him. What had happened here? What had happened to this poor human, to come to such a state?

Then he saw the rocks at the bottom, strewn across. Many were coated red with blood. Some benches and stools were damaged as well, clearly indicating what had happened. Rage rose up in him. To be caged and slain like an animal in this was was intolerable. He rose up and roared, though he had no mouth. The deep and terrible sound echoed and the ground shook across the land, announcing his fury.

He would secure vengeance for the old man's fate, and for his own broken existence. He would make this world pay a bloody price for everything.




Silence echoed through the ruined village. Toshre stood in its center, motionless, surrounded by utter carnage. The chains wrapped around his arms and legs were red with fresh blood. The ground around him was littered with the same, as well as other fruits of the massacre. Men, women and children were torn to pieces, shredded and ripped and hacked and butchered. He had killed them. He had killed them all.

Murderer.

How had it happened? One minute he had been at the pit, then the next... that pure bloody rage... He just lost control. He became a slave to his own fury. A bitter laugh escaped his form. This was his way of conforming to his core? This carnage?

Despoiler.

No, they had deserved it, every one of them. These people, these humans, they were vile creatures. They had commuted unspeakable sins against one another. They had created him. Did that not merit death?

Monster.

And then there was the confusion. Some of the slaves had stood side by side with their oppressors hurling spears at him as he tore through the settlement. Did they embrace their bondage? Were they trying to curry favor? Were they protecting their own lives? He did not know. He had killed some slaves, he could now see. Their clothing was simpler and their forms thinner. It was not intentional; swinging his chains around had simply caused collateral damage. But surely it was worth it. Surely they would approve. They had to know that death was preferable. That this existence was a mistake.

Mistake.

Gripped by sudden agony, he gripped his head, and roared again, this time not in rage but pain. It was a filled with all his grief and regret and despair. As he roared the land around him shifted: across two kilometers, massive chains burst from the earth and flew into the air. They formed a wall around the village as they converged a hundred meters in the air, forming a dome. More chains erupted everywhere in the dome, ripping apart the earth, the trees, and the village equally easily. When he was done, a dense forest of chains surrounded him in the dome, nearly too thick to see through. The exterior of the dome was so tightly wrapped in chains that it might as well have been solid.

Unknown to him, this same roar also gave birth to the Ix'hakai, born of his rage. Creating it purged himself of the bloodlust he had been possessed by, but it was a terrible thing. Twenty feet tall and fast as lightning, with massive arms and legs, it drew power from this dome, a holy place that Toshre had unwittingly created. It would dwell in the darkness from then on, hidden from the sun and the outside world, leaping from chain to chain and devouring any creatures that dared to enter that cursed place. While it stayed in the dome, it would heal all injuries such that it would be nearly impossible to kill.

He fell to his knees where he stood as all this occurred, unaware of what he had brought to life. Let this be his prison then, where the god of slaves and slavery and misery might rot. He wept.

His existence, he knew, had been a mistake.



In My test area 12 mos ago Forum: Test Forum



In a valley in the Anchor of the World, tribes of humans fought over the river and fields and game. They had come far from their homeland in the Boreal Highlands, finding in the nearby gardens a bounty of life that let them thrive. Their forays there discovered plants that they had come to learn to plant, such as wheat and corn. This development of agriculture permitted their population to explode, to such a point that they now were locked in conflict with each other. Their competition was generally peaceful, occasionally violent, and rarely murderous. There came a day, however, when the down-stream tribe raided the up-stream tribe's village, putting it to the torch once and for all. They wanted an end to the competition, they wanted the valley to themselves. They did not know quite what to do next, however. They had burned the village down, but the peoples were now captive. What to do with them?

Some argued to kill them all, but others called that suggestion unthinkable and inhumane. Many more objected on pragmatic grounds, however. It seemed to wasteful to kill so many when life was already so hard! And so the chief, a fat and greedy, but undeniably cunning man, came up with the solution.

"We kill the ablest men, those most able to resist," he decreed, "and we take in the rest as part of our tribe."

"They will not want to join those who murdered their husbands and brothers," others warned.

"We will not give them the choice," the Chief said, smiling at his own thought, innovative among mankind. "They will join, or they will die. They will labor, or they will die. We will not need to prepare our foods or sew our clothes anymore. We will live lives of luxury and plenty, and they will serve." And so slavery was born on Galbar. It was as simple as that.




The lifeblood phased through the world, seen and unseen, twisting and churning. It bled with every moment more of its contents, spilling out god after god. Even those of weak concepts were now freeing themselves, thanks to the damage that had already been done.

Everything in this world has a Core, a central identity which defines it. A mountain is a mountain, a tree is a tree, a bird is a bird. A tree can no more fly than a bird can absorb sunlight. This applied to sapients, as well: Humans, Vrool, Elves, Alminaki, all individuals had cores that they could not escape. This applied to the gods as well - no, especially to the gods, who were defined by such core concepts that it gave them life. There was never a choice for Enmity to be created cancerous, or Boris wild.

As the hearts of man grew dark, another sliver of the Lifeblood was lost. When it was told its Core, however, it wept, for it was as cruel as any that could be.

It's identity was as simple as it was terrible...

To be enslaved.

No, more than that, to suffer, to weep, to gnash and scream, to face misfortune and tragedy and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain and pain

Too soon, it was too soon, it didn't exist yet, this wasn't right, the identity depends on the prison, this existence was a contradiction, this was stillbirth. A name of a place rung in the god-embryo's mind, a name it couldn't understand because it didn't exist, but is should. It had to. They were linked. How could this be?

Whips cracking. The institution spreading. Tribe after tribe conquered, a tribe becomes a nation, a nation becomes an empire. Chains that bind the wrists. Slaves everywhere, even without chains, slaves to fear, slaves to hunger, slaves to ambition. Everything slaves to their own existence.

Explosive rage formed with agonizing despair as the god-embryo took a shape. Its time had come, but it was too soon.




The down-stream tribe had over the last decade become known as the Geldricks, a more proper name for the people that had conquered lands beyond the valley in every direction, particularly into the rich southern fields of the Gardens. They had crushed tribe after tribe, killing the warriors and enslaving the rest. Such was the size of their labor force that they could dedicate themselves to the art of war without worry of mundane tasks. Each warrior had many slaves to take care of all their needs; every waking moment of theirs was from then on practicing battle, preparing for war against other tribes and their own slave populations. The tribe split into several villages across the land. Their familiar foes, those who didn't succumb, adapted: they emulated their practices of slavery, which spread like wildfire across the Toraan as far as humans lived.

The slaves were kept docile through terror. Every year, the ten most disobedient slaves were executed in front of the others to break their spirit. They were sacrificed ritually when the game proved insufficient as an offering to the dark gods that they believed exist. Ironic, that the most evil deities existed only in their own minds.

It was a hot day of summer. The old man had toiled in the hole for a week now, tirelessly skinning the game he had been given and tanning their hides to make leather. The heat was unbearable and the insects were relentless, but he labored on regardless. He had no choice: he could not climb the sheer clay walls, not at his age and with his legs. And there was nowhere to go even if he did somehow escape. So he lived in that hole, processing the animals they threw down at him and returning processed parts via a basket they would lower.

So when he heard voices approach that day, he panicked and started to assemble the products of his labor. It was early! They shouldn't have come for another day now! He despaired; when he didn't produce enough, they would throw down rocks. He heard children laughing. He froze. Strange, they never brought children with them before. What did they want now? Couldn't they just leave him alone?

He looked up, and saw many heads emerge from the top of the whole. There were a half dozen boys and girls there, accompanied by a single hard-looking man. He knew that man: that was his tormentor, the one responsible for keeping him imprisoned and punishing him when he didn't obey. He shrunk back into a corner of the hole as the children pointed and mocked his unkempt appearance and filthy living space.

"...this creature, for example," the man above seemed to be saying. "Once, he was productive, but age has slowed him. Many other younger slaves could do twice the work for half the food. He drains us now, so we do what we must to keep the tribe strong. Now do as you've been instructed, children. You too, Herrek; if you don't have the stomach for this then you don't have the stomach to eat." The old man couldn't quite process what was going on, the man's uncaring tone clashing with his terrible words.

He saw the children picking up and holding rocks. "What-" he managed to let out, confused, before the first rocks started raining down. The smaller ones were little more than pebbles by with the drop they still hurt when they hit. The bigger ones smashed clay from the walls as they came down. One of those struck the side of his face, knocking in to his back. Still they continued to rain. he curled up into a fetal position on the dirt to protect himself. "Please, no, mercy!" he cried as the onslaught continued, but they didn't stop. Of course not. He was a thing, an animal.

And they were putting him down.




"Toshre." The Chained One.

The god-ling pronounced its own name as it came into being, rising from the earth itself. He did so with disdain in its voice, disdain for this world, and disdain for himself. He knew what that name meant. He knew what he was. And that realization broke his mind. No, it had broken his mind before he had such a thing.

Contradiction. "To be enslaved". Yet here he was, on Galbar. Where were the chains? As he rose, heavy chains materialized around himself, difficult for even a god to move. It made him want to laugh; chains alone didn't make a slave, but it seemed this reality had a keen sense of appearances. He rose to his feet, dragging the chains behind him as he lurched through the forest. Forest. Strange, this life. It seemed almost familiar. He must have seen this world while he was still part of the Lifeblood.

He felt his faceless face, knowing he would find no mouth nor nose there. All he had were his glowing eyes to mark his appearance. And his stature, of course; as he came erect he stood as a giant, nearly ten feet tall. He stumbled forward. As he dragged them along his chains carved deep grooves in the forest floor, cracking branched and crushing flowers. He walked without purpose.

Another contradiction: he was enslaved by his very identity, yet here he was walking free in the woods. Or was he free? Was this existence itself enslavement? No, this was all wrong. He shouldn't be here. It was time yet. It... that place, it didn't exist. But it needed to. He rested himself against a massive tree, and covered his forehead with his massive left hand.

This. Was. Wrong. Every fiber of his existence rebelled against itself. Was he the god of slavery? Or slaves? Both? Was he master of the whip or chain? He was all of that, he knew, but that made no sense. His mind shattered as he continued to trudge through the woods.




After some time - how much time? He could know, it might have been minutes as easily as decades, it all seemed to feel the same to him - he came upon a strange sight. In a clearing was dug a sizable hole, some ten feet across. Walking to its edges and looking down, he saw a terrible sight: the motionless carcass of an old man, his body broken. Dry blood was caked across the bottom of the pit. At first, comprehension defied him. What had happened here? What had happened to this poor human, to come to such a state?

Then he saw the rocks at the bottom, strewn across. Many were coated red with blood. Some benches and stools were damaged as well, clearly indicating what had happened. Rage rose up in him. To be caged and slain like an animal in this was was intolerable. He rose up and roared, though he had no mouth. The deep and terrible sound echoed and the ground shook across the land, announcing his fury.

He would secure vengeance for the old man's fate, and for his own broken existence. He would make this world pay a bloody price for everything.




Silence echoed through the ruined village. Toshre stood in its center, motionless, surrounded by utter carnage. The chains wrapped around his arms and legs were red with fresh blood. The ground around him was littered with the same, as well as other fruits of the massacre. Men, women and children were torn to pieces, shredded and ripped and hacked and butchered. He had killed them. He had killed them all.

Murderer.

How had it happened? One minute he had been at the pit, then the next... that pure bloody rage... He just lost control. He became a slave to his own fury. A bitter laugh escaped his form. This was his way of conforming to his core? This carnage?

Despoiler.

No, they had deserved it, every one of them. These people, these humans, they were vile creatures. They had commuted unspeakable sins against one another. They had created him. Did that not merit death?

Monster.

And then there was the confusion. Some of the slaves had stood side by side with their oppressors hurling spears at him as he tore through the settlement. Did they embrace their bondage? Were they trying to curry favor? Were they protecting their own lives? He did not know. He had killed some slaves, he could now see. Their clothing was simpler and their forms thinner. It was not intentional; swinging his chains around had simply caused collateral damage. But surely it was worth it. Surely they would approve. They had to know that death was preferable. That this existence was a mistake.

Mistake.

Gripped by sudden agony, he gripped his head, and roared again, this time not in rage but pain. It was a filled with all his grief and regret and despair. As he roared the land around him shifted: across two kilometers, massive chains burst from the earth and flew into the air. They formed a wall around the village as they converged a hundred meters in the air, forming a dome. More chains erupted everywhere in the dome, ripping apart the earth, the trees, and the village equally easily. When he was done, a dense forest of chains surrounded him in the dome, nearly too thick to see through. The exterior of the dome was so tightly wrapped in chains that it might as well have been solid.

Unknown to him, this same roar also gave birth to the Ix'hakai, born of his rage. Creating it purged himself of the bloodlust he had been possessed by, but it was a terrible thing. Twenty feet tall and fast as lightning, with massive arms and legs, it drew power from this dome, a holy place that Toshre had unwittingly created. It would dwell in the darkness from then on, hidden from the sun and the outside world, leaping from chain to chain and devouring any creatures that dared to enter that cursed place. While it stayed in the dome, it would heal all injuries such that it would be nearly impossible to kill.

He fell to his knees where he stood as all this occurred, unaware of what he had brought to life. Let this be his prison then, where the god of slaves and slavery and misery might rot. He wept.

His existence, he knew, had been a mistake.



__________________________________________________________________________
The Lifeblood

__________________________________________________________________________


Chaos beyond description ruled the Lifeblood. It was torn in a thousand directions as whispered voices became clamoring shouts, and it heaved and shuddered under the weight of contradictory urges. Just as it corrected the positivity that was consuming it with the terrible island it had created, now other solidifying voices shouted out against the action. This was an affront to what was right! The peoples of this world, when they would come about, would suffer terribly if this were to continue! They needed plenty, lest they be slaves to hunger and famine. Let them have a world free of want and pain.

The lifeblood looked on Toraan's vast wooded plains and set about fulfilling its sudden empathetic impulse. The vast expanse of forest south of the Anchor of the World was fine for beasts of the woods, but it would be harsh living for those who would come. With a thought, the lifeblood's desire became manifest as it willed the landscape before it to change. The land was molded flat of hills and rocks, and cleared of trees and shrubbery. In their place, the Lifeblood spread new kinds of plants, inspired by those that existed in those forests and plains in had already made: Wheat and maize, tomatoes and cucumbers, berries large and ripe.

The lands bordering the south of the Anchor which once had been covered by the woods of the Genesis Tree were now flat plains of produce that could one day be cultivated by those with the knowledge to do so. The Lifeblood had cleaved channels from the Anchor, creating countless steams that merged into countless rivers that flowed through these lands, irrigating them and permitting this bounty of life. Nor were the changes limited to the surface: the soil below was changed in composition, made fertile beyond compare in the world.

The Lifeblood retreated from this region, satisfied that it had created an Eden where civilizations might flourish without fear or pain. A name for it materialized, unsought but fitting: The Gardens. It shuddered then, as other voices - its own voices - rose up in outrage. Where is the balance, some demanded; those without the strength to live should not be coddled, others insisted. The lifeblood trembled under its own contradiction before stabilization itself. One urge at a time, one action before its reaction. It moved on, satisfied but troubled.



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