By n8amis.


A long forgotten beast groaned, awakened suddenly from a long and tortured slumber. It rolled over, and the earth shook. The rumbling was so deep that it was barely perceptible on the surface. The creature found itself chained to the shoreline of a lake of fire miles below the surface. It stood slowly, straining against the chains, testing its limbs. Shards of rock splintered and fell from its body as it moved for the first time in hundreds of years. It settled its weight upon its legs and pushed against the restraints. The chains dug deep into its body before giving way and snapping. It felt good to stand. It was good to be alive, even if in agony. It stretched, lifting its head toward the rocky dome above, and sniffed the acrid air. It snorted and raked a pair of heavy upturned tusks across the ceiling, feeling out the boundaries of its cage.

Upon reaching the far wall, the beast shook its head and growled. Agitated, it scratched its hooves across the shore of the lake. It coiled its body and lunged upwards, driving its tusks into the top of the chamber, lodging them between fissures in the rock. It twisted its head, pulled its body into the air, and swung itself back and forth. Boulders dislodged and fell, splashing into the lake along with the beast. Waves of magma rippled across the surface from where it fell. A deep rolling thunder rose from the bottom of the lake, and bubbles of sulfur popped at the surface like grease in a hot pan.

The beast stood, flexed its muscles, and charged from the lake. It kicked its back legs at rocks that fell, sending those it struck through the air into the wall of stone surrounding the shoreline. It ran about, slamming its heavy shoulder and haunches against the wall, dislodging rocks from the perimeter that fell into the lake like hail splashing in water during a thunderstorm.

The rumble from the lakebed grew louder. Geysers of magma poured from lava tubes that opened beneath the lake from the beast's weight and the boulders that fell from the chamber. A cloud of smoke billowed from its body as it spun about, repeatedly throwing itself at the ceiling, battering a hole further into the rock with each blow.

It drilled its way into the rock, pounding through miles of stone using its tusks like a jackhammer. After hours of work, its tusks finally ripped through the surface. Lava spilled from the hole it made like an explosion, vomiting black clouds of soot high into the sky. Molten lava cascaded from a great depression at the center of a giant volcanic cone covered in ash pushing high above the surface.

The boar stood panting at the top of the volcano. It was covered in fresh lava that tumbled down its back, falling from its belly to the ground in columns of fire. The beast glowed red and orange from potholes of magma-filled depressions in its skin. It dragged its head across the land, stamped its hooves, and charged down the mountain.

When the creature reached the ground, it turned on the volcano and trampled it until the remains were no more than smoking rubble. It scooped pieces of the pile up with its tusks and flung them into a giant furnace affixed to its back. It breathed deeply, filling its cavernous lungs with air. When it exhaled, a burst of air escaped from an aperture under the furnace. Heat distorted the air as it flowed through the fire, and a bright orange glow emanated from the furnace. The air pushed upward into a chimney. A black cloud of smoke exited through the chimney, stretching behind the beast as it lumbered across the valley.

A group of Riverman stood motionless on a floating dock. They watched a growing pillar of black smoke stretch across the corrupt canyons. An old man among them extended his withered hand into the sky. He held it there, palm open for a moment then moved it in front of his face and rubbed his hands together. Soot stained his fingertips. He wiped his index finger under his eye, leaving a black streak behind. He spat on the dock, rubbed it into the wood with his boot, and looked up at the others. "Asiterra has risen. Send word to Na'Armalek."

Na'Armalek took the note from a young Riverman. A wax seal with Ezria's seal held the envelope closed. Na'Armalek's hands trembled as he removed the seal and opened the letter:

"Asiterra has returned." He read no more of the letter. He didn't need to. It was as he'd suspected. The beast had escaped. How, he wondered. Generations had passed. It didn't matter, though. Whatever happened, it was here. And Asiterra would not have forgotten. It would come for them, and nothing they could do would atone for their sins or sway the boar from taking revenge.

Na'Armalek looked at the messenger. His eyes were heavy. He felt old. "Tell Ezria I will head to the mouth of the river with as many men as I can gather to hold the pass. Find as many men as you can. Send reinforcements quickly, and get word to Jorah. We'll need his resources if we have any chance of survival."

Asiterra walked towards the mouth of the river. He passed from the canyons of the desert into fertile plains where the river split into tiny fingers meandering across the delta before disappearing into a marsh. Steam rose from his hooves as he waded into the swamp, leaving a trail of boiling mud stretching behind him.

As Asiterra made his way closer to the river, he saw a man seated on a horse. The rider sat at the edge of a cliff where the river cascaded into the delta below. The man returned Asiterra’s gaze and raised a flag, signaling a force of some 200 men that rode over a rise carrying shields and weapons. The men chanted a war song in cadence with the beating of a deep drum as they rode into view. Asiterra reared his head upon seeing them. He slashed his tusks through the air, hungry for violence.

Na'Armalek dismounted his horse. He removed an ancient spear slung across his back. He held the spear before him, looking down thoughtfully at the old white ivory of the weapon with a mixture of regret and resignation. He walked to the cliff's edge and looked down into the delta at the raging beast. "Too late for pity now." He said, hefting the spear. He crouched low, stepped forward, and hurled the spear from the cliff. It flew across the sky and landed in the mud a dozen paces before Asiterra. Na'Armalek got back on his horse and watched the beast approach the spear. He turned, wheeled his horse around, and galloped down into the delta.

Asiterra bellowed as he charged the men that rode down upon him. He crashed into them, tusks battering men that fell against him. He trampled upon them, crushing their bones beneath his hooves as they rode headlong into his vengeance.

Na'Armalek witnessed scores of men die around him. A young man riding next to him disappeared instantly, lifted from the back of his horse upon Asiterras tusk, impaling him through the belly. The man's body hung limply from the tusk and swung about like a rag doll as the beast whipped his head about, crashing through men and horses. Blood sprayed from the bodies of men in great plumes, showering the ground with crimson.

Asiterra slaughtered dozens of men, but champions among the Rivermen fought against him with cunning and remarkable skill. Many of these men carried weapons and talismans imbued with magic that cut deeply into him, draining his power.

Na'Armalek watched as his men gained ground against the beast. Despite its size and anger, it fought haphazardly and appeared tired. Its long imprisonment and the effort it exerted to escape must have taken their toll. If they could manage to hold out long enough for…. "there may yet be hope."

Asiterra felt the life drain from his body with every blow. Legions had grown strong, their betrayal made them powerful, but Asiterra had waited long for revenge against those who'd imprisoned him. He would not roll over and die for these men. Driven by desperation, he breathed in deeply, using the breath to stoke the furnace on his back to its very limit. He consumed every remaining drop of magic from the rock of the volcano he'd gathered. The power of it felt like it would rip him to shreds.

Na'Armalek looked upon Asiterra as the beast burst into flame and reared up on its hind legs, writhing in pain. The men raised their spears and cheered. Na'Armalek felt a twinge of sadness for the beast as it fell to the ground, consumed by fire, eyes rolling back into its skull.

Asiterra was in agony. He'd overstepped. In his desire for revenge, he consumed more magic than he could manage to control. He felt his body convulsing and his mind slipping away. His last fleeting conscious thoughts were hatred for himself for failing and anger towards those who had enslaved him so long ago. As Asiterra's mind slipped away, the vast amount of magic he'd consumed became corrupted by the madness and anger left behind. The corrupted magic rushed into the void of consciousness Asiterra's broken mind no longer filled and assumed complete authority over the creature's body.

The flames that engulfed Asiterra were sucked forcefully back into his body through the aperture on his back. Na'Armalek knew something was wrong. He watched in horror as the creature rose, white flames leaking from its eyes. Na'Armalek saw insanity reflected in the eyes of the beast and knew that Asiterra was no longer in control. He understood in an instant that the beast had been consumed and had become something new, something terrible.

Na'Armalek fled. He ran in terror along with his men as the thing that had been Asiterra turned its terrible gaze upon them. The monster opened its mouth, revealing white fire swirling about its throat chaotically. The creature inhaled. The force of its breath pulled at the men with the strength of a hurricane. Men struggled to stay on their feet. Many fell and were dragged across the ground towards the beast, clawing at the mud. Na'Armalek felt his insides ripping apart. He heard his men yelling. He heard himself scream and felt his eyes burning. The pain was unbearable. He fell to the ground, hands covering his face, begging for death.

Long after the battle had ended, Jorah stood foot sunk in the mud surrounded by dead Rivermen looking down at the corpse of Na'Armalek. The man's eyes had been burned away like all the other dead men. Jorah rolled the body over, sighed, looked down at the footprints of the great boar stretching off into the distance, and said:

"Yes, it seems as if Asiterra has indeed awakened."

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