Chapter One - The Rise Of Tornad
He did not know how long he hid beneath the sacks of food in the pantry. Till long after the sounds of steel had ceased. Long after the crackling of flames had died down to sparse popping. Long after the screams of the dying had become gurgling moans, and then silence. The young boy shook. Mind not even coherent enough to beg the Gods for salvation. Only to mentally scream their names. Alphus! Medleose! Omegas! Where are you?! Torn did not know. He knew the earthen scent of the potatoes and the burlap, barely masking the salted smell of blood and the infernal miasma of flame and smoke. He knew the taste of his fear.
They had come in the night. Elven soldiers. His village had remained neutral in the war against the Malidant, he remembered his father saying. There would undoubtedly be some repercussion. But who had expected this? The whole town had been pretty much in agreement that the Malidant did not deserve the scorn of Terras. Being a southern village nearly on the border of the Malidanian Marshlands, they encountered many. Most came to trade fish, carpentry and game, as well as Malidanian weapons, which where quite effective.
None of them had committed the atrocities the Elves accused them of. None stole children in the night. None feasted on the flesh of humans. They did business, and while at first the sight of the towering beings with their mohawks of spines and their large cycloptic eyes had terrified him; he quickly had grown accustomed to their presence. A few had even played games with the local children, laughing and enjoying the peace of Endra.
But to believe one's eyes was treason. A betrayal of Zeideroth. They had expected a fine, perhaps some imprisonments. But there were no such due processes. A battalion of mounted soldiers and mages had rode into town, not days after the news of the Malidant's defeat had drifted south to Endra. They answered neutrality not with justice but with arrows and blades, jeers and spells. Men. Women. Any child unfortunate enough not to seek a hiding place, as Torn had done. Almost immediately. Shame coursed through him at his cowardice. But his terror had overrode all rational thought. At least he had not soiled himself.
Eventually, he mustered the courage to push aside one of the burlap bags. He had almost done so three times, but everytime something had stopped him. A bursting ember, which could easily be a soldier's footfall. The collapsing of timber, which could easily be elves digging for survivors. The call of a bird, a code amongst the Zeideran warriors. It was only after hours of silence that he ascended from shadow. Numb shock took his mind, even as his body continued to move. His eyes roved over the countless corpses. Faces he had known, twisted in fear and agony, some burnt off. Bodies that had once worked and embraced twisted and broken. Some missing limbs or heads, others impaled upon spikes of ice, withdrew from the water in the earth and converted to crystal form by elven magic.
His legs pushed him forward through the carnage, seeking some hope, any faith that those he loved may still live. That something had survived this abomination, that even the slightest hint of compassion had been flickering in the hearts of the elves and had allowed them to spare someone. His faith betrayed him. His numbness grew deeper as the familiar faces stacked up. Here was his mother, impaled upon a pike. Here was his father, strangled by an enchanted rosebush and torn to pieces. Here were his friends, young children who had attempted to hide in one of the chicken coops, and the elves had simply burned. He recognized them only by the hair of one, crimson cascades that had somehow survived the flames. The girl he had eyes for. None else survived of her.
Blackened sockets stared back at him. He could not cry. Could not vomit. Could not be horrified. Could not scream. How could this happen? Why did this happen? He remembered his father speaking to him soothingly as the riders approached. "Whatever happens, boy, they're just following orders." What swine could obey an order to murder children and innocent people? What coward could heed such commands without question? Had the children committed treason?
"Alphus. Medleose. Omegas..." He repeated, again and again, his faith diminishing with each repetition. For where were they? Did they descend to heal his wounds and revive his family? Did they swoop down upon Zeideroth and punish the elves for their evil? Some part of him told him these thoughts where dangerous and unfair, but this new coldness and rage pushed them aside. Unfair? A mound of child carcasses, fused together and blackened by flame, indecipherable from one another in their agonizing deaths, that was unfair. The punishment of death for refusing to accept the stigmatization of a misunderstood group of beings? That was unfair. A small boy, forced to stare at an endless field of bodies, while his emotions and hope burned out like their lives had, that was unfair.
"Tell me boy." A voice whispered, causing Torn's stomach to heave with terror. Perhaps it was the surprise. Perhaps it was something else. "Do you think they hear you? Your Gods?" He did not want to turn. Did not want to see the face that spoke in such a voice. A voice that seemed to be composed of darkness itself. A voice of the legs of cockroaches sliding over the dirt of the grave. Yet he turned. Compelled. Forced. The creature sat upon the mound of his former friends. Great black wings stretched behind it, and it's tail coiled lazily around the throat of the girl who had once captivated his gaze. A face not unlike some of those that had been burned twitched as it's nearly fleshless mouth moved, razored teeth glittering. Yellow eyes stared into his, and it was as though the being could see his mind.
"I can." It smiled, it's skeletal visage lightening in an out of place joyful grin. "I can hear it's wishes. See it's doubts. Read it's faults. Your Gods have allowed this Torn. Your Gods poisoned the minds of your people into neutrality and have left you to gaze upon their desiccated corpses. They hide while you suffer. They offer you no comfort. Only sit wherever it is that they sit and allow such massacres to continue unbridled."
"Get off of them." Torn whispered, trying to muster courage and ferocity. It came out a whimper.
Nonetheless, the thing obliged, it's tail uncoiling from the girls throat and letting her head thunk wetly against the charred wood. "As you wish. My is it a lovely seat though."
"What are you?"
"I am Cerebus. You don't know that name. You don't have to. I am everywhere. Undying. Immortal. I come to aid you now, where your Gods will not. Tell me, Torn, as you look around. What is it you want? Truly, deeply, and completely? What desire calls the loudest?"
Torn did so, his fists clenching in rage, while simultaneously the numbness in him grew. He wanted-
"To be saved from this scene? To be spared these images that will haunt you for the rest of your life? Corrupting your innocence and defiling your dreams for the rest of your tortured existence? To train yourself in combat, raise an army against the elves? To set about the task of burying the dead? To keep uselessly and pathetically begging your Gods for intervention? No, no, these things all call you, but there is something louder, is there not? Listen, I ask you. Listen to your own mind. Who is truly the perpetrator?"
"Alphus. Medleose. Omegas." Torn whispered, as the words formulated in his brain. A thought alien, but not recognised as such by the young mind.
"Correct. Supposed Gods of Beginnings, Happiness, and Imagination. Of Love, Life, and Time. Of Battle, Honor and Ends. The only one who seems to have any sway here is Omegas, and was this battle? No. It was massacre. Was there honor here? No. They where slaughtered in the night. Is this an end? No. The elves will continue their slaughter and their tyranny. No, no, it is what is not seen that speaks the truth. Their absence is what speaks the truth. Now, you have been made aware of your true enemies, Torn. I ask you again. What is it you desire?"
"Their blood." Something had died within the boy. He did not notice it. It had withered and rotted the moment his eyes locked with the eyes of Cerebus. The moment the Demon Inferni of Torment had entered his mind as a rapist will forcibly enter their victim. His soul did not feel the exhalation of disappointment from his morality. Did not hear his own mind, begging him to turn from the creature. The thoughts that had once been his own where now Cereban. Doomed to do the bidding of this beast, that now threw back it's head and laughed at the very idea it had implanted in his mind.
"You? Spill the blood of Gods? Why, look at you! You are a pathetic human child! What? Will you take up a sword, caked in the blood of your family and encrusted with their seared flesh and hunt down three, immense, omnipotent dragons? You? Not even the height of ten daggers ? You could not even hope to scratch even one scale of their hateful, apathetic hides! You are a man-child, and they dragons! You could not-" The demon broke off in mid giggle, and observed the newly made living corpse before him, emptied out and filled with itself. "Unless... Would you like to become a dragon, Torn? Would you like the power to soar the skies and meet them in battle? The power to breathe flames that will make your enemies feel every ounce of your searing pain, and have the world tremble at your name? The power to implant ideas in the brains of their mindless servants as they did to your innocent loved ones?"
"Yes." The boy whispered, his overthrown imagination conjuring the images. His weak body becoming massive and mighty. Crimson flames erupting from his throat and scorching those who would foolishly follow the sadistic Gods. His shadow blotting out the sun as he flew to meet the Three in the Terran sky, rage in his eyes, and fear in theirs.
"Then join me. Be my hand in Terras, as others are my hands in Worlds Beyond. Join science. Join organized religion. Join the Inferni. Join control. I see your imagination boy. All these things will be yours. Do you accept?"
"Then so be it." The demon raised an obsidian arm, the flesh blacker than the darkest nights, and more sinister than the cruelest hearts. Jet tendrils whirled from the ever shifting aura of darkness that danced about the yellow eyed monster's towering and muscular body and slid toward the boy, who raised his own arm to greet it. It ensnared him then, when all hope was gone. The fires wreathed him, and there where no words, not even those hewn by the most learned and dedicated wordsmith, that could describe the agony as his flesh burned. Like those the demon sat upon. His mind stated bluntly before something savagely pushed the thought away.
His bones shattered and his innards pulped, but only momentarily, as they began to shape anew. A mane of spines jutted from the base of his skull as his neck elongated, and his skin blackened to a shade not unlike the flesh of the demon before him, who witnessed his transformation with growing glee. Once jade eyes turned crimson, and the pupils dissipated, leaving only pools of enraged vermillion. Wings erupted from his shoulder blades as they widened, the membrane matching his new eyes. Spines tore from every vertebrae, and from the new ones that appeared as his body grew. From nearly ten daggers high to the length of a hundred broadswords did the child become, a whip-like and spined tail lashing in barely contained violence. His fingers became talons, which raked at the dirt as if it where the flesh of the Gods that had betrayed him.
The power filled him. The things he could now do festered in his infuriated brain. As intoxicated as the drunks in the now decimated tavern did the boy, no, the Avenging Dragon, become. The power to see the mind. The power to erupt fire from his gullet. The power to raise the dead as his slaves, as he had once been a slave of his faith.
"Rise, Tornad. Torn, Anew." Cerebus nodded, looking up, without a shred of intimidation at his newest creation. He had nothing to fear from Tornad. As mighty as the dragon was, the cost were his choices. His free will. The mind, as nearly immortal as it was, belonged to Cerebus now, and it could not strike it's master. The will to do so dissipated with his faith. "My, my. If only I could do this to my Earthen minions without shredding their puny, unimaginative minds, I could control their world much more swiftly than in the manner I am controlling it now."
"Earth, Cerebus?" Tornad questioned, his voice now the rumbling of thunderbolts from a nation destroying storm.
"A World Beyond." The demon smirked. "It is a silly place. Come, Dragon. We depart to Golgotha to begin your training, and you can meet the team. In time, the Gods will know your name, as will all of Terras." Cerebus looked up as rain drops began to fall upon the ruined village, from the darkened sky above, and back up at the crimson gaze of Tornad. "I think they already do."