Ascension, Prelude: Power Hungry

His throne was set atop the peak of a great mountain. He sat upon it, day and night glowering at the lands below him. Rivers of molten rock poured from great gargoyles carved into the sides of his volcanic perch, spewing from their mouths like glowing drool from ravenous, hellish beasts. The basalt throne neatly plugged the cone of the volcano, forcing its magma through the open mouths of the gargoyles, its glow illuminating the low, black clouds that perpetually blocked the sky.

The great beast that ruled this land sat alone. At nearly four stories in height, he was imposing, even to the largest of giants. His form was an outward manifestation of his arrogance and greed. Though he was extraordinarily large, he was stooped at the shoulder. His face and skin were reptilian, his face more an animalistic snout than the flat face of the more intelligent races. Thick, black crocodile-like skin covered his body, a fitting compliment to the sharpened teeth that protruded from his blunt mouth, again like a crocodile. His eyes appeared to be great orbs of solid obsidian, glowing with red-orange pinpoints, illuminated by his insatiable hate for everything.

He was a great demon, banished from his home in the circles of Hell, forced to sit alone on this world, this finite world of stone and water. Fhina, the weaklings that populated the world called it.

He hated this place, this world; A place where even the gods were weak. They were dead, to a one, so it was said. In the centuries he had lived on this wretched world, he had seen it to be true. A great war over the pathetic creatures that they had created had lead to their demise.

It was that lack of an overriding pantheon that had prompted, and allowed his former colleagues to banish him to this place. Grohvahl was his name. Arrogant, even by the standards of devils and demons, he had thought himself a god on his home plane. Among the very largest of his kind, he bullied and dominated all who could not escape him, securing a large portion of Hell as his own domain. But that same tenacity and determination, as well as his own self image as a god among demons, had prompted his closest advisors and colleagues to see him as a threat, and so they combined their strengths to remove him from their world and place him where he would be diminished, and unable to return.

So he had arrived in this land, devoid of divinity, devoid of power. He had carved out a home in this land of darkness, the volcanic wasteland of the Black Mountains in the far-east, out of range of populated lands. He had minions at his call, a vast army of black orcs, a contingent of disgusting bluebottle elves, but they weren’t enough. They were loyal, to a one, but he didn’t crave simple loyalty. He craved fealty. He desired to be worshiped.

Recent rumblings and rumors had caused the great Blackheart, as he was known to his followers, to reconsider his place on this lowly ball of dirt. If the telling was true, then several of the old gods were returning, solidifying their place through the influence of select mortals around the world.

And in the place of the ones who weren’t returning, others were rising to fill the voids. This world would once again have its pantheon, and soon, by the reckoning of one who’s life was measured in millennia. Blackheart meant to have place among that pantheon.

As his network had spread out among the world, the giant demon had made a contact in the world of humans. A human of no small power and of great patience; a person who desired the same thing the great demon did: Godhood.

The ancient evil gods of this world’s past had worked together toward a common goal, to reshape the spawn of the good gods in their own images, to great success. So too, he surmised, would the gods of the future. He had begun working with the human, connecting lines of information and supplies, organizing and solidifying the various, disparate evil races of the world into a single, unified force.

Together, with this human, he was working to find others like themselves; beings of power and ambition who would gladly don the mantle of deity. A rare smile found its way to his toothy face. The thought of solidarity was an odd one to him, especially since his lack of it had landed him on this world. However, he was not a stupid beast, and had learned well from his past mistakes. This human would have made a worthy opponent, so, he surmised, it would make an even more worthy ally.

His mind drifted to a future place, where he sat upon a similar throne, in a similar place, but with thousands of worshippers singing his praises, begging him for a piece of his power, and spreading his dark influence like a plague. He watched the fell beasts that lived in this torn land drift on the rising currents of heat, and began to laugh. He would supplicate them first, he decided. He had watched them, idly for centuries, never once paying them enough heed to know what they were or why they circled about.

They were evil that much he knew. Base cousins of the great dragons, they feasted upon his orcs when they were careless, taking great delight in dragging sentient beings into the air and dropping them to their deaths on the rocky ground below, or holding them over the molten streams, relishing their screams as they cooked alive.

His interest grew, knowing that the prayers of any thinking being were the footsteps to the power he so craved. He began to laugh, softly at first. It rolled out like the tremors of a mild earthquake, growing into a loud, avalanche cackle. He stood before his throne, moving from it for the first time in decades, a great howl of laughter erupting from him; his hands clenched in fists at his sides. The magma streams from the gargoyles grew; the volcano an outward reflection of Blackheart’s emotions.

He gazed at the largest of the beasts, a giant bully who stole from the others when he didn’t feel like hunting, sometimes simply eating his own if orc pickings were thin. Come to me. He commanded with a thought. He watched the great monster’s flight as it twirled around a column of hot air, its leathery wings spread wide. His gaze narrowed, thinking he would have to force the beast, but before he issued another command, it turned, flapping its wings and flying straight toward the demon.

Blackheart nodded happily as the creature alighted upon a crag some thirty feet below his throne, its head cocked curiously. “Do you know who I am?” he asked the creature in a deep, grating voice. It stared at him for along moment, and then shook its head. The demon sneered, locking the thing’s eyes with his, forcing his will upon the leathery monster, dominating its will with his own. “What are you?” he asked.

“Wyvern” hissed the creature. “Who am I?” he asked, drilling his aura into it. The wyvern cowered under the bombardment, its mental defenses collapsing under the assault of Blackheart’s strength.

“Massster?” Came its sibilant response.

Good, thought the demon. Progress was quick, as was to be expected. He let up on his dominating assault, understanding that though fear was a powerful motivator, greed was far better in ensuring loyalty. He flooded the wyvern’s mind with images of feasts, of his snaking reptilian form dropping not orcs, but sweet blooded elves onto jagged rocks, of great meals of oxen, of slithering masses of supplicant females writhing around him.

The wyvern cracked what could have been called a smile for its race. Blackheart soaked in that smile, the sudden eagerness to please him he felt from the beast he had so quickly claimed as his first true follower, his first true faithful.

“Who am I?” he asked, this time, in a calm, expectant voice.

The wyvern cocked its head again, thinking long and hard about its response. And for some reason it wasn’t surprised by its own words.

“God.”

The demon called Blackheart laughed for a second time that day, a sound of pure satisfaction.

Seltor, the large wyvern, glided back out towards the others circling the columns of hot air rising off the flows of lava, his duty clear to him. It was not unlike what he had done all along, before his new found faith, but now he had purpose. He swooped toward the closest wyvern, flying beside it and buffeting it hard with his wings.

“Land!” he croaked. The other wyvern sneered at him and tried to veer away. Seltor growled, a long, hissing sound, and darted toward the smaller wyvern, surprisingly nimble for a creature of his size. He clamped his clawed feet around the other beast’s slender torso and wrenched it violently. “Land!” he repeated “Or I will feast on you and share the words of my God with another!”

The smaller wyvern seemed terrified and confused all at once, and when Seltor released his grip, it did, in fact land. Seltor landed next to the waiting wyvern and wasted no time. “I have been gifted with a great message.” He hissed at the cowering wyvern before him. “Our God, Blackheart, has tasked us with spreading his word.”

“Our God?” the other dared to ask.

Seltor held back his urge to tear the other’s throat out, his message from his deity overriding his instincts. “Yesss!” he hissed excitedly. “Blackheart holds many promises for his faithful! Those who spread his word will be rewarded. Feasts! Females! Fairies and elves to dine upon!”

The other perked up at the promises. Tentatively, he asked “What does the Blackheart demand of us?”

Seltor smiled. “Faith.” It seemed so simple. The other wyvern sat and thought about it. “We only need to spread the word, and offer prayer. Fealty is a small price for power, is it not?” his sibilant voice growing more excited with each passing word.

The only proof the smaller wyvern needed was that Seltor had visited the giant beast on the volcano and was still alive. How could the gigantic creature be anything less than a god? It had come from another world, and had been sitting there among the flame and lava for as long as any of them could remember. “Spread the word?

“Yesss…”

“Blackheart is God?”

“YESSS!”

The smaller wyvern nodded, then hopped from the stone he was perched upon, slowly flapping up to the next nearest wyvern, bearing the message from Blackheart through Seltor. Seltor smiled, he had done well, he knew, as would his God. Like a spark landing on dry grass, it would not take long for the message of Blackheart to spread among the wyvern.

Seltor flapped his wings, lifting from the ground to spread the flames.

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