Hero - Ghallerion

My name is Theos, son of Allaris, the last descendant of the home of Ghallarions. I was 6 when my arm first grasped the hilt of a sword, by the age of 13 I embarked upon a journey throughout the land of Veridis in search of fame and glory. I mastered the art of martial arts as taught by elves, dwarves, people from all over the world; the mysteries of the human body were unraveled to me, a knowledge of a power within myself which I could not dare to fathom before. I practiced the art of taming the rage and using it to my own advantage, intelligence before the muscle. 10 years it took me to perfect my skill, as I was getting ready to come out victorious in the Great Tourney where I was to fight the most outstanding of warriors to death and bring back the glory my family once had. It mattered the most – the only thing that mattered. Or so I thought.

The blindingly splendid lights of Veridipolis welcomed me as I entered the city.  The prayer “Afei’yah fen mah, an tu uaveen, hienta’l mon Euveen an tu on’talen; fen mah, an tu luinan, hienten a’ Verid fen lienti” was carved into the walls of Colliseum, “May the fallen ones be guided by the light of Ancestors, the ones who stand – shine upon the land of living”. As I stepped my foot on the arena, I knew that I was the one to bring the light of my kind to this world. Upon finding out which lands my opponent was from, developing a strategy was an easy task. In the final fight I had to face a Nordling, twice as tall and twice as mighty as any human I had ever encountered. His size did not intimidate me. His inhumane power and savage fury brought him this far up the ladder to the glorious victory, but I knew how to use his advantages against him. Dancing around him, I dodged every hit he tried to land on me; he let the rage take over him, making his blows more deadly and yet significantly less accurate. Once the state of mindless fury was over, I was the one to attack. The crowd was going wild, gasping upon every wound I inflicted on my opponent. The only sound to leave their lips as we progressed through the fight was the sound of my name. Nordling was fighting bravely and desperately, all to bleed out and fall breathless at the end and to never get up again. I remember the feeling of euphoria slowly embracing me, intoxicating me, as I pictured the sight of me bringing the light of the victory back home. I ached to see the eyes of my father filled with pride, to stand before my future vassals not as a mere man, but as a leader, the one they would follow to death. A vision of the council sending me off to Epphys was as vivid as the light of day: Epphys, where I were to bring more glory upon my family, where I were to lay waste to our enemies and become a legend never to be forgotten. I was but a naïve child. I was approaching the honourable home of my ancestors, the city of Ghael’ohran, to attend a feast held in my honour, but instead I was to witness a certain event that changed the flow of my life – the flow of life of Veridis as a whole. That day, Theos Ghallarion was no more, replaced by someone – or something – else.

I will never forget the sight of the sky going dark and a colossal boulder falling upon the city of my ancestors. The shockwave spread for miles, knocking me off my steed. As I was to regain my consciousness, I dashed into the city, praying that the mass fell close to the city and not atop of it, leaving someone – at least someone – alive. Impenetrable smoke covered the ground, I felt as I was breathing in lava itself, I found it challenging to keep my eyes open. Overcoming those obstacles, I had made it to the city simply to find out that it was not a mere boulder, but flying ships (the ones we were to refer to later as dreadnaughts) of Fire Kin, Khaul’verid as we call them, monstrous creatures darker than night, with veins of no blood, but fire and magma. But fire was never a challenge for a blade of Ghallarion. My attack was not expected: they believed themselves to be victorious, anticipating no resistance and hoarding civilians for reasons unknown. The hot smoke burned my lungs as I breathed in, the sharp metallic sound of my sword being unsheathed echoed through my head, I could feel no ground beneath my feet, my pace lighter than the air itself. Their atrocious and strong visage was in no way representative of their lack of might: they fell before me one by one, spoiling the ground with their filth. The city was crawling with them; I’ve slayed dozens, hundreds, my mind was slowly slipping away, my hands were bleeding as the skin was coming off them, but I gripped my blade even tighter. I knew I was heavily wounded, but I could feel no pain. Only the urge to kill. I was taught to fight throughout my whole life, and I could not lose. I dared not. Then I realized, that it was not a matter of winning or losing. It was a fight to the imminent death, the outcome I had accepted the second my sword left my sheath. I was standing atop a mountain of dead demons, increasing the body count with each swing and thrust of my blade. I could feel the warm and unyielding darkness embracing me, the sounds of a sword fight and fiery growls becoming more distant as my consciousness was slowly fading...

I have no memory of how much time had passed. I was found lying atop a pile of dead charcoal-black bodies, covered in dirt and clotted blood. Éneos, royal mage of the house of Ghallarion, my childhood mentor and a good friend, was not in the castle during the attack. Once the news reached him, he marched back with my father's army, laying waste on enemies swarming our honourable ground. The cost of our victory was too much: most of our soldiers fell while storming portals which opened the way for more Fire Kin to enter. I can vaguely remember the sound of horse hooves echoing through my heart with a feeling of pride and relief. All of those mighty soldiers wearing our family crest, all fell, their faces forever wearing a grimace of utmost pain. It was a miracle I had survived: none of the demons attempted to finish me off, believing me to be long dead.

I might as well had been dead; when I was found, I could already see the light of Ancestors shining upon me. The pain was crippling; every movement, attempt at speaking or even breathing brought unbearable agony. I could feel every wound at once, my eyes burned out by the cursed fire, leaving me absolutely blind. I would wake up in the dark, but the pain made me lose consciousness again and again. My futile attempts at screaming resulted in nothing but more pain. With inhumane effort my voice managed to come through, and I screamed, and screamed, filling the night with the sounds of my endless heartache, until it turned to mere hissing. I shuddered from tears, torn apart by the anguish and grief, but with my eyes no more, the only tears I could produce were made of blood and mucus. The thought of me losing the ones I loved and lived for was unbearable, incomprehensible. Wrecked by despair, I was but a madman cursed with living. Theos Ghallarion, a hero bringing the shine of the Ancestors back home to honour his family and imprint the name of Ghallarions in the very flesh of the world; a hero who had just lost his whole kin to a disastrous accident, was no more. Only worthless and pathetic pile of burned carcass hiding depthless and infinite darkness which could not be breached by the light ever again. I was treated for day and night, brought back to life by the masterminds of healing arts, whom I had asked to put me down and let me embrace the welcoming sight of eternal sleep. Then Éneos made me an offer which no man would have ever accepted in their life, no other man but me, as I was no longer human. He knew that as well.

Veridis is known for its brutal (barbarous even, as considered by some) methods of punishing those who have commited a capital crime. Those who are mighty in body and spirit are not sentenced to death nor are they exiled, they are up for a much more horrible fate. They are turned into ultimate machines of destruction, golems, by having their bodies infused with magic and their parts replaced by metal and gears. To assure absolute obedience, they are stripped off their consciousness and will, controlled by the subjection staffs.  Those people are to be forever imprisoned in their enhanced bodies of metal and serve the will of the Great Council without question. Scholars and mages tell us that the pain of transformation is unimaginable, and golems could feel that pain throughout their whole existence which could last for decades, if not centuries. That kind of pain was a familiar concept to me, and I was not intimidated by it. There was nothing for me to hold on to, nothing to lose. I agreed on one condition: I despised the idea of being controlled by an outer force to follow someone else's bidding, if I were to lose my mind and turn into a mad golem craving blood and destruction, they simply had to destroy me. I was locked in a mechanism which kept me at one place, as the pumps were filling my veins with liquid magic, destroying the last bits of human in me. I can remember every second of that agony, the overwhelming process of turning weakness into power. But I was numb to the pain, I was ripped off all my senses in the field of Ghael’ohran, where ground was still hot from the fiery blood of my enemies. I was carved into a perfection, given a form I could not have dreamed of. I was given my sight back, and by the Ancestors, never in my life was I as seeing before. I could feel the pain, as told by the mages, and I knew that it would never stop: you either accept it and learn to live with it, or you let the suffering take over you. I would not let that happen to me, not again. With my sight I had recovered my sanity; with sanity, I was given a purpose. A golem driven by a purpose was an impossible sight to see, but I was there, a living proof of how much of a loose concept impossibility is.

When I used to travel across the land and explore new places, I had met a lot of individuals of questionable reputation. I would not have dared to get along with their kind, but now I could not care less about their past selves, it was their ability to kill which mattered most. Gold might not be able to buy loyalty, but I was in need of a company of outstanding killers, not noble warriors. The kind of war I had to indulge myself in was not to be won by pride and codex, but by cunningness and skill. The wealth of my family was more than enough for me to hire an army of the most reckless and cold-blooded thugs on the planet. This venture took me a year to complete, while the Fire Kin were bringing chaos all over the place we, humans, used to call our home, striking fear in the hearts of people with sudden appearances of their dreadnoughts in the peaceful skies above cities which defenses were not meant to repel that kind of attack. Armies of Veridis could not withstand the assault of Khaul’verid who created portals on the ships themselves, instantly opening a way for reinforcements to come. I put an end to their victory march. I could see that our fire magic was not only ineffective against them, it made them significantly stronger. Thus, I had to request assistance from our allies from Epphys: those pure creatures made of magic itself, with the help of a dwarven craftmaster, created freeze bombs of tremendous impact and enchanted our weaponry. With our new teeth, me and my newly assembled army of thugs brought down one dreadnought after another, closing the portals and freeing prisoners. My abilities were unlimited, the combination of my knowledge and experience with a body made of the most solid of metals, forged by dwarves, enchanted on Epphys and perfected by elves, turned me into a paragon of vengeance, a voice of billions of people, an ultimate weapon of destruction. Then, we were the ones to take prisoners.

I must reluctantly admit that the Fire Kin proved to be a powerful enemy. Ferocious, proud and outstandingly physically capable, they were still acting like animals, led by the fury alone. I used to share this approach with them, but those days of being blinded by rage and winning the battle only with strength were long gone. We were capturing their generals with great effort and great losses, as all of them preferred death to being imprisoned. We put all of our might into not giving them that kind of a choice. We had to sacrifice our own people in order to unarm and immobilize our high-ranked enemies, but rarely those sacrifices were justified. Torture brought us nothing but small pieces of information; we got to learn that the name of their home planet was Volcan, but apart from that - barely anything that would be worthwhile. We could not find out the reason for the invasion, destination where our people were taken as prisoners or how we could get there. Their portals left no traces our mages could track, and even if our fighters entered those while they were still open, they would be closed from another side preventing the people from coming back.

My victories did not go unnoticed: the Council of the Wisest appointed me as a Lord-Commander of the united army of Veridis, and I turned the tides of the war in our favour. Our losses were growing smaller, while their losses increased drastically. But they never gave up. Following an unknown order, they continued their senseless raids on our planet which brought them nothing but death. It is now a matter of time when we are going to put a complete end to this madness. We have to capture their dreadnought and use the portal placed within it before they get a chance to destroy it on their own. Then we enter the monster lair, directly. None of the people who stepped their foot inside the enemy land had ever come back, so I have to be the one (and most likely - the only one) to dive into the unwelcoming grounds. We have no other choice. The war must be stopped, no matter the cost. Now I have to persuade the Great Council to sacrifice their Lord-Commander for the sake of our future, and I know just the person who can help me succeed in this endeavour.