This was to be a time of changes.
That which lurked within him compelled him forward, controlled his every step. While Darken Brood may have given it a face and form, he was ultimately at its mercy. And that was very unfortunate. Luckily, despite its inimical nature, an understanding had been reached. The necessity of this situation was known.
It had driven him to the ruins of the Silver City. The wreckage was strewn haphazardly over the plain. The landscape was marked by destroyed buildings and giant craters in the ground. Rebuilding would be an exercise in futility. It would be much easier to simply build another city elsewhere. Of course, complete wreckage of both city and landscape would not be enough to prevent anyone from trying. It was just another cycle of creation and destruction.
It had pulled from Akara and the gathering of miscreants. Walking through the refuse of Ascantha, Darken now knew why.
The most heroic deeds were those that had no witnesses. Actions taken not to gain the approval or gratitude of others, but because they were simply the right thing to do. And this had been heroic indeed. A sacrifice of one life for hundreds of thousands. Death had been a well earned rest.
Alas, the living ever exploited the dead. And so it was that Darken found himself looking down upon the grave of one of an unsung hero. Impossibly, the man, along with an entire section of the street, had not risen with the rest of the city. This small road was perhaps the only thing that had been entirely untouched by the calamity that had befallen Ascantha.
In the center of the street was darkness. If one looked closely enough, they might be able to discern the form of a man kneeling, head bent, his hands wrapped around the hilt of a giant sword which had been thrust into the cobblestones.
Even the blackest of souls would feel remorse about the exploitation that was about to occur. Of course, Darken Brood was the exception to the rule.
Epoch Ruin had been a fool. He had made himself an instrument of justice, but he had failed to make himself pure in focus. Epoch had wanted to kill him. He had caught a glimpse of the true threat that Darken posed. While the shadow warrior had not known much, he had figured out enough to act on his suspicions. But he had been flawed. In his misplaced compassion, he had believed that the lives of Ascantha's citizens were more important than his own. Epoch Ruin had no doubt believed that he had given his life freely to save the residents of the city. In truth, he had been murdered.
Amitiel's mimics had been too efficient. Unhindered, the city's inhabitants would have been collected and brought to the gathering point in order to be sent away to Ultimatum. They would have all been safe, escaping the city before it rose from the ground, if not for some simple spells of manipulation.
It hadn't even taken any effort. Subliminal suggestions here and there, urging people to go the wrong way, to refuse to leave their homes, and to return to collect things that they had left behind. Once seeds had been planted, confusion had taken over. Nothing more had been necessary.
Epoch Ruin had wanted to kill Darken Brood. But he had made a fatal mistake in not knowing who he was up against.
"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." Darken recited. Extending his right hand, he laid his palm upon the kneeling figure's head.
The blackness surrounding the fallen figure roared into life. Darkness swept upward, the raw energy attempting to devour Darken. Around him, the energy had swept down the street as well, destroying everything in its wake.
Try as it might, the darkness could not harm him. The more it tried the more resistance it met. But the energy's hunger refused to be contained. A pillar of darkness had erupted upward, hundreds of feet high, and from it spears of shadow cascaded downward, all of them racing to impale Darken Brood. Though hundreds then thousands of them struck his body, they all left not even a single mark.
But the magic refused to be denied. Still building upon itself, the column had begun to spin. Like a maelstrom, everything in the surrounding area was sucked in and devoured. Everything from broken chairs to destroyed streets and buildings were pulled in.
And in the center of it all was Darken, cackling manically. While he had traded on set of chains for another, in reality he was now free. Consolidated to a single form but no longer bound by that which resided within. Of course, it was still a part of him – such a connection could never be erased completely - but it would no longer impose its nature upon his actions. It
had understood the necessity.
Darken removed his hand from the figure’s head. Immediately, the raw energy imploded, collapsing on the fallen hero.
Who now began to stir.
It stood up slowly, its ascent marked by heavy, demonic breathing and the rattle of chains. The figure who now stood before Darken bore little resemblance to the man it had once been. Robed in chains and eight feet tall, it was a mass of solid darkness with no discernible features. Extending from what was presumably a hand was a massive cleaver.
Looking up at the abomination, Darken grinned in delight. “Well then. I suppose we’ll have to give you a name. Epoch, perhaps? Oh, I jest, for that would be cruel indeed, given how sorely we’ve just exploited his power. Given your nature, how about something relating to entropy? Oh, and we can even tie in my little epitaph about the abyss. I’ve got it! We’ll call you Antropyss!”
A flash, and the cleaver was under Darken’s throat. The creature leaned forward, presumably looking down at him. To inspect him, or to gloat before the kill? Satisfied with whatever it found, the creature – Antropyss – removed the weapon and turned away. What was on its mind. Given the lack of facial features – or anything even resembling a face – it was impossible to tell. It was like gazing into the abyss.