Mahlen and Malus
Human Fighter and Sword Cleric of Moloch
"Mahlen, pay attention!", exclaimed the old man that insisted on filling our heads with senseless facts, "What could possibly be more important outside that window than the great Age of Morning!?!"
The "Great Age of Morning," as it was called, seemed to be a topic of constant discussion in our village. For it was then that the being of Death itself, entitled Moloch, was banished from this plane of existence by the cowardly forces of the God Taath and the Frontacian race. However important it may have been, it held no interest in the minds of children that were eager to explore the outside world, to conquer imaginary evils, or to simply farm the land. As such was Mahlen.
"Wha-...oh, I'm sorry sir. Nothing is more important than that," muttered Mahlen.
Nodding, the old teacher continued to drone on. "As I was saying...the Frontacian forces and Taathians..."
Of course, Mahlen could not concentrate on the lessons. Conveniently enough, swordplay lessons were being taught outside. The distant noise of mock battle pervaded the classroom, and through the single dusty window were visible older children with wooden weaponry of all forms. Every so often the cheers of classmates for a victor were heard over the melancholy droning of the old man. Mahlen desired nothing more than to be a part of these lessons rather than our quite dull history sermons, as did many other children from the looks of wanton desire in their eyes as they fondly regarded the scene outside the window.
For what seemed like another Age of Morning, he continued praising the works and endeavors of the great Taathians. As the sun reached its apex and continued to wane until it was a mere fiery blot upon the horizon, his jaw grew weary of speaking and decided to set us free with several last words of preach.
As were many of our youthful days spent. To spend the lighted time within the confines of a building with a man older than Time itself, and to spend the time of night longing to be a part of the older children and their weaponry of trees. We were not aware then yet of the world around our village, of the forces of Evoloch and Odarous on the nearby isle of Saldea, which was a mere blur on the horizon. Our parents, as with most children, expressed a great sense of love and caring for us, yet our lives seemed to desire more. We did not expect what more would come, however.
When at last the morning sun began to reach its fiery tendrils towards the sky, Mahlen and I dutifully began our trek back towards the school upon a hill. Along the overgrown trail, Mahlen spoke to me that he had had enough of the old man's preaching and that he desired to create the stories, not learn of them. With a mischievous twinkle in his sky blue eyes, he spoke also that he intended to take part in the sword lessons that day rather than attend the teachings. Despite my advice, his mind was not to be changed. Well, at least not of yet...
Upon entry of the school, I hastily invented a fable to explain my brother's absence. Something to do with a minor illness of some sorts, I cannot recall exactly. And as with all previous lessons, my mind wandered to places that never existed. However, I was torn back to reality by the sounds of battle that were not common to the mere sparring past the door of our class. No, these sounds were much more realistic in nature, not the steady one-two-one-two rhythm of practiced fighting. Even the ageless one seemed to take notice, telling us to sit quietly and contemplate his words as he went to investigate the cause. Upon his opening of the door, the noise roared louder than I would have thought possible, a thousand voices mingled as one. Fires roared as far as the eye could see. As moments passed and the old one did not return, I took him for lost and moved to see exactly what had taken occurrence. What presented itself to my eyes still has not faded from my memory...
Thatched roofs blazed in the mid-morning sun, smoke bellowing forth to blot out even the heavens themselves. The noises of battle seemed to drown out all that had once seemed familiar, and what had been familiar was now not. Seemingly legions of green robed men stood atop a grassy rise, hurling bolts of power down upon those hapless enough to be caught under them. In the dirt roads of the village, strange men wielding flaming blades struck out against the townsfolk as screams and blood issued forth. All of this seemed as a dream, a nightmare of incomparable stature. Within moments the entire town lay decimated, a mere heap of flaming and smoking rubble, carcasses strewn about in all manner.
Oddly enough, the men wielding the swords sheathed their blades and began gathering the fallen at the base of the rise atop which stood the robed men. This having been accomplished, the robed ones, priests if I would choose, began to encircle the slain and started chanting together as power rippled between their outstretched arms. The air around twisted and became distorted. Within moments, specters seemed to rise from the bodies of those that had been slain, shrieking most horridly and then dissipating as if into the wind.
The children that had as well come outside began wailing in a most pathetic manner, many falling to their knees in despair as tears ran in rivulets down their face. The sparring children had taken notice as well, the same look of despair upon their faces. I noticed Mahlen among them, and I could only assume he thought the same as I. Turning my attention back towards the encircled Priests, my heart sank as I saw several take heed of the hill upon which the school, and ourselves, stood.
"Do not allow them to touch the younger children!" was the general call to arms of the older children while they began to form a semi-circle in front of us. Mahlen stood among them, his sword held at the ready and a look of determination in his eyes. After attempting to convince him not to do so, I withheld any further arguments for fear of demoralizing any others. The Priests began to point to us and suddenly the swordsmen began an advance, drawing their flaming blades as they did so. Among them, notably, stood a man of enormous stature. He wielded perhaps the greatest sword ever to have been forged in the histories and his plate mail hammered of the blackest metal, the likes of which I have yet to see again to this day.
The swordsmen set upon us as a wave crashing against the rocks, their fiery weapons parting flesh and bone with seemingly no resistance. More frightening than their blades and our impending doom was the mark upon their foreheads, a mark that had not been seen since the Age of Morning began. The mark of Death. It glowed with a pale, eerie hue and seemed to shift and writhe upon the skin it was branded into as if within it existed a life of its own control.
Our own Master of Swordplay, as we had dubbed him, set upon the foe with a determined rage. For a moment it seemed as though he may have turned the tide of battle enough to allow us to flee, yet as Fate would have it he was struck down with a mighty blow to the head by the opposing general, his soul rising amongst the fog of blood from his body before it hit the ground. With the fall of our only experienced warrior, the remainder of our forces were quickly defeated by the endless foe. Mahlen advanced against the enemy with his other Human comrades, only to be transfixed by a hauntingly green javelin let forth from the giant one's hand. He fell to the ground with a look of disbelief fixed on his face.
What events transpired after that, I cannot say. Upon seeing my brother fall, Time in itself seemed to cease functioning. Among a sea of darkness we drifted, and of events there I am forbidden to speak save to a select few.
Upon my return, I beheld the world a changed place. I beheld myself a changed person, as well. For at the coming of my nine years, I had been embraced by the Hand of Death itself. No longer did fearful thoughts of Death run through my mind, instead replaced by thoughts of ways to praise Death, to worship Death, and to spread Death.
As I beheld my new surroundings, I saw that I lay upon the cold floor of a building, a temple of sorts. Rising unsteadily to my feet gave birth to an entirely new view, that of the altar. It was covered with strange, archaic runes that almost seemed to whisper of ancient powers now lost, and upon it lay a body. A body that I knew well. The body of Mahlen.
To my surprise, he did not seem harmed. There were no traces to be found of any form of injury on his body, even though I had most assuredly witnessed him fall during the battle. As I stood next to the altar, I heard a voice whisper in my mind, telling me that my brother had been returned to this world to act as my Protector. As the voice faded away, Mahlen's eyes snapped open causing me to step back in surprise. He sat up slowly, and dangled his legs over the edge of the altar. In his right hand, which I had not noticed previously, he wielded a broadsword. A mark of similar nature to that of the robed men in our village pulsed faintly upon his forehead. He stared at me through now empty black eyes, then smiled faintly and insisted that we proceed to due our new Bidding. Of course, I agreed and we set off to spread Death to the furthest corners of the world where once He had reigned supreme.
At first, none took us seriously, thinking that we were merely of the variety best left to babble to themselves in a corner. However, our reputation began to flourish, slowly at first but rapidly increasing. Strange events took place within the night that none could explain save we. Those that would rebel against His teachings were subdued. Belligerent drunkards in taverns that praised the works of Taath were taken aside and promptly "taught" the Truth. As time grew to pass, the entire island had come to the influence of Him. Yet He desired more.
Years had passed since my Renewal. Mahlen and I aged as normal humans do, at least physically. As the prospects of conversion upon the island grew minimal, we had decided to embark upon a voyage to spread Death to the center of the known world, a place only spoken of in taverns as a mythical city of trade, a city known as Spur. We spent months constructing a water worthy vessel to bear us to this new city, and upon it's completion we left the island never to return.
For what seemed like eons we traversed the sea between the island of Saldea and the mainland upon which sat the Spur. We had judged the distance inaccurately, and as a result the food and pure water which we had taken with us ran in short before land was to be seen. For another week we went without food, drinking water only as it mercifully rained from the heavens. After such a horrendous week, land was to be found directly ahead of us. We had arrived at the city of Spur. Our new quest was at hand.