Prologue- The Crimson Crowning (Pt. 1)
Far beyond the shadowed veils of human perception, through intangible ether and ever-evolving cosmic dimensions; deep within the endless void of celestial space, lingered the blackened globe of a rotting world. A forgotten vestigial organ in the empyrean body of the cosmos. Where only the ashes and decay of the once ethereal remained.
Heavy tempestuous clouds swirled throughout its glowering obsidian ionosphere, eternally cloaking its undead lands in a nocturnal gown of abyssal darkness. Upon its surface, sharp and mighty mountains pierced the ominous skyline like venomous thorns of desolation. Harrowing forestlands, haunted by the corrupted corpses of those who had long ago fought valiantly against the all-consuming darkness, wove their roots deep within the world’s rocky soil, and despondently reached for the heavens like labyrinthine veins of bough and bone.
A vast tenebrous sea, filled with incomprehensible creatures of recherche horrors, covered most of the world. Upon its opaque surface, bitter suffocating winds carrying miasmas of decay hissed across the deep waters like the reaper’s putrid breath. The heinous gales created frightening waves, which violently crashed against formidable cliffs. And upon those cliffs rested the ruinous and ghastly kingdom of Tenveriel.
Below the sharp and jagged stone towers of the bleak yet formidable castle, nestled against the cliffside, laid a treacherously rocky beach. And there, a sacred circular platform made of dark disintegrative stones stretched from the shoreline, and out into the temperamental ocean waves. A platform upon which a sacrosanct sacrifice was soon to be performed.
Elegant undead dancers adorned in silks of starless midnight twirled a melancholic ballet across the somber beach, using long sticks to gracefully draw magical symbols in the dark pebbly sands. While tenverian men, dressed in dark regal cloaks, used engraved bones to rhythmically beat on large nefarious-sounding drums. Drums that were made from withered flesh and fearsome-looking alien skulls.
Tenverians and graiths alike all eagerly awaited the sacred ceremony. They watched with looks of malice etched onto their undead features, and hearts as cold as frozen stones. For their souls held no light, and they knew nothing of sorrow, compassion, nor empathy. They were cruel and savage. Both cannibalistic and vicious by nature. Both cadaverous species squirmed in anticipation, like writhing maggots consuming a festering corpse.
The mirthless lower class, consisting mostly of tenverians, with their decaying ash-grey skin, pointy ears, razor-sharp fangs, and eerie black and red eyes, stood crammed together atop and throughout the treacherous cliffside. Most were cloaked in black otherworldly robes, while others adorned more casual, but still very strange, almost medieval-like, black clothing.
While the entitled and elegantly robed nobles consisted of mostly graiths. They had no eyes, tattered smoke-grey skin, short and sickly reptilian snouts, and three harrowing rows of sharp needle-like teeth. They were given the honor and privilege to view from the beach. Every so often a lowly peasant would lose their footing on the unforgiving terrain and fall from the cliffs, only to be violently ripped apart and devoured by the malevolent superior class.
An undead queen, dignified and magisterial, stood in the center of the platform, proudly on display before all her unloved citizens. The roaring seawater billowed out behind her as the waves angrily crashed against the rocks. Her elegant burgundy gown and regal cloak of shadows gently fluttered in the seaside winds. Long black hair, adorned with braids and small bones, blew across her cruel corpsen face. While her crimson irises, set in scleras of stygian darkness, coldly gazed down towards her favorite son.
The ill-fated prince, barely yet a man, was laying upon a sacrificial altar before her. The tips of his menacing twin swords poked out from beneath his long, sprawled out, dark hair, on either side of his shirtless body. A grotesque crown, forged by his deceased father’s fingerbones, twitched angrily upon his head, while a stony expression of honor and determination was cast like a shadow over his handsomely formed features. Black blood oozed from his poorly bandaged stump wrists. His hands had already been removed so that the next in line for the Tenverian throne could be crowned.
“Are you ready, my son?” The queen apathetically asked, flashing her sharp teeth and fangs.
The undead prince’s crimson eyes uncannily shifted to meet her gaze, like the haunting stare of a specter. “My mother, Queen Cerindier, I was born ready to die feeding the jaws of Malsanguis.” His deep voice was laced with a strong sense of duty yet hollow.
A wicked smirk danced across her face, as she dramatically unsheathed her athame, revealing a malignantly gnarled blade. The glowering black clouds ominously swirled above her, while the raging sea roared behind them.
“Citizens of Tenveriel!” Queen Cerindier’s orotund voice rang through the air, silencing every murmur, screech, and growl. There was an unquiet silence. The air was thick with suffocating tension and anxiousness. “The crimson moon is soon to arise! And so the time has come yet again to appease the mighty serpent, Malsanguis!”
The crowd began to boisterously cheer like a bunch of crazed barbarians, with a few unfortunate souls getting savagely torn apart in the uproarious commotion. The queen looked out over the sea, stoically watching the horizon as a crimson crescent began to slowly ascend between the clouds and sea like the twin horns of a devil. Its bloodied tusks gave off no light, yet it stood out boldly against the obsidian sky. Its reflection rippled across the dark glossy ocean waters, arousing the ancient one below.
And as the blood moon sinisterly arose, the queen turned towards her son and slowly lifted the dagger above her head. “Malsanguis... Malsanguis... Malsanguis...” She began to chant in a foreboding otherworldly rhythm.
“Malsanguis... Malsanguis... Malsanguis!” The citizens of Tenveriel began to sinisterly chant along with her, with the harrowing pounding of the drums adding to their ominous canticle.
“Malsanguis!” She passionately shouted as she forcefully stabbed down into her son’s bare chest.
The prince screamed out in pained agony, convulsing as his mother violently sliced him open. She grinned as she ripped through the decaying flesh of his abdomen, causing his blackened blood to ooze out all over the alter. It dripped in rivulets off the edges and trickled down to the cold stones below. Then, with a cruel gleam in her deathly eyes, the queen began to ritualistically remove his putrid organs one by one. They made squishing and squelching noises as she carelessly discarded them to the ground beside her.
Once the prince had been properly hollowed out, she took a few steps over towards a sacred vessel which rested proudly upon a malevolent-looking plinth. Inside its intricately engraved basin, made from black crystalline stone, was a plethora of dead alien sea creatures surrounding a sacred relic, The Ophidian Orb. Ancient and powerful energy leached out from the glossy black orb, and into the small oceanic corpses. This was done to deceive the mighty serpent.
The queen's clawed hand slowly slid into the slimy vessel, becoming coated with black goo as she grabbed the squishy rotten sea creatures. Unbothered by their putrescent odor, she meticulously stuffed them into the deceased prince’s lacerated remains. Once his hollow cavity was overflowing, the queen chanted an otherworldly incantation over him, then formally stepped away.
Two large and well-muscled Tenverian guards then approached with a small black boat made of boards and bones. It was simple, yet fit for royalty. Their long black ponytails wisped in the wind and fluttered against their spiky obsidian armor, as they respectfully placed the quiescent prince’s body into the boat. The crowd remained silent while they carried him down to the water’s edge and gently sent him off to be carried away by the dark waves.
The boat rocked as it drifted out towards the stygian horizon, with the slowly ascending crimson crescent behind it. A wicked smirk twisted across the sadistic queen's face, while the citizens patiently watched behind her. All waited anxiously for Malsanguis to arise.
Just as the bottom bow of the crescent became visible, something massive and unsettling moved beneath the tempest waves in the distance. The serpent who slumbered as though kissed by the cold lips death, coiled deep within the blackened depths of the abyssal sea, was stirred by the crimson energy given off by the moon. It bubbled below the surface like an enigmatic predator slithering within the shadows.
Suddenly, its massive and harrowing serpentine head burst through the inky surface, creating violent splashes and waves all around it. It screeched out a loud and terrifying roar that could instill fear into the very bravest of men. An abyssal sound that could make mountains tremble and worlds quake. Seawater poured from its mighty gaping jaws, revealing sinisterly sharp rows of fangs. Its black scales were glossy and smooth, for although the serpent was lost to abyssal insanity, it was not undead. Lines of thorny horns adorned its head, and its black tongue was covered in sea slime. One large black eye shifted around on the right side of its face, for the left one had been lost long ago.
Its eye took in the sight of the slowly drifting prince. The serpent lowered its head and flickered its tongue over the boat, then hissed out a mournful cry of despair. Its mighty jaws violently clamped down upon the boat, splintering the wood, and devouring the prince whole. Then as suddenly as it appeared, it sank back down beneath the obsidian waves with an anguished wail and sorrow glimmering in its only eye.
The tenverians remained silent and still, as they watched the waters return to their normal tempest waves. The moon waxed as it further ascended into the sky, casting its crimson reflection upon the empty horizon. Nothing was left of the sacrificial prince, and no sign of the serpent remained. Leading one to question whether or not they had ever been there at all.
“Malsanguis has been appeased!” The queen abruptly declared. The crowd behind her immediately cheered in celebration. It was an exciting and joyous occurrence for the Tenverian people.
And yet, hidden within the shadows beside the platform, a small undead boy at the tender age of seven, mournfully peered out over the sea. His tormented gaze had not yet left the waves. “Goodbye, Aldrinan.” He softly whispered, with his quiet voice gently floating upon the sea winds.
Sorrow welled up in his crimson eyes and poured down his ashen cheeks as ebony tears. It ripped through his soul, and mercilessly tore open his heart, filling it with despair. His tiny black claws strenuously gripped and scraped at the side of the stonework, while he hopelessly tried to snuff out his grief. He knew that his mother would be furious to find him crying over his brother’s death. Yet try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to hold back his tears.
“What the fuck is wrong with you!?” Queen Cerindier’s voice abruptly hissed out from right behind him, causing the boy to jump in panic as he turned to face her. “Do you honestly wish to show the people what a worthless weakling you are? Right before you’re crowning!?” She snarled with malice.
“I-I I’m sorry mother. I pr-promise I’ll stop!” The boy stammered while desperately trying to wipe away his tears.
The bitter queen sighed in irritation, using her fingers to rub small circles on her temples as if she had a headache. “This idiot child...” She grumbled to herself, then angrily snatched him by the upper arm. “Just get up here already! Everyone’s waiting for you! You pathetic cretin!” She growled, as she aggressively dragged his stumbling cloaked frame up onto the platform.
As their feet pattered across the stonework, the boy stared with wide fearful eyes out over the rowdy crowd. They were all eagerly awaiting the crowning of the reverenced young prince. The queen, however, looked down upon her son with loathing and detestation. She was ashamed that such an abomination had spawned from her womb. To her, the crowning was the boy's last hope. The last thing she could think of that might heal his mental affliction, and make him worthy of being king.
“Citizens of Tenveriel!” The queen’s voice boomed, once again silencing the crowd. “As you already know, Prince Aldrinan has served his duty and has perished within the jaws of Malsanguis.” She spoke without a single trace of grief or remorse, ignoring the visible anguish that her words caused her only remaining son.
“And so, we must now crown the next in line for the throne. The last remaining son of King Pargrail, and...” She excitedly held up a finger. “...the only prince to ever be born with, not one, but two royal marks! Making him twice as worthy of hosting the dark spirit.” She gestured towards the two black lines which fell over the trembling boy’s left eye. The royal marks of power. “I present to you, your future king, Prince Valarendrik!”
The crowd clamorously cheered, as the queen callously threw the terrified young prince into the waiting arms of a menacing-looking guard. “Let the crowning begin!” She joyfully exclaimed. “...And may it fix his fucking head.” She grumbled to herself in irritation.
The prince struggled hopelessly against the guard, while the Elder Graith’s feet slowly crunched over the stones, and up onto the platform. Although he had no eyes, his stare could still pierce one’s soul and instill fear into the hearts of the bravest of men. He was the second-highest ranking in the kingdom, the queen’s personal advisor, and the ancient high priest of abyssal darkness. The great lloigor, Hsarohpem, had chosen him personally to ensure that the tenverians were always kept within the shadows.
His hideously decaying face turned towards the young weeping prince, with a sinister toothy grin stretching across his sickly snout. The large black hood of his clerical robe shadowed his countenance, making him look all the more nefarious. Long black claws tipped his gnarled fingers, as he maliciously presented the crown to the poor boy, silently taunting him. Prince Valarendrik’s eyes widened in horror, taking in the harrowing sight of the thing that would soon be permanently attached to his skull.
It was a simple crescent band made from stygian stone, with three long and formidable spikes jutting out from its inner curve. Seven of his beloved brother’s bloody fingerbones symmetrically lined the outer curve, still tipped with Prince Aldrinan’s sharp black claws... The young prince wanted to vomit.
“No! Please mother! No!” Prince Valarendrik began to thrash and scream, terrified of what was to come. “Please! I don’t want it! Mother, please!” He cried with pure fear lacing his words, as a second guard rushed over to firmly hold his head still. The Elder Graith began slowly lowering the crown to his forehead. “Please don’t let them do this to me!”
“Shut up!” His mother angrily hissed. “...You’re embarrassing yourself.” She quietly gritted, so that the onlooking citizens couldn’t hear.
The blood moon was now almost full, hovering above the kingdom like an ominous omen. Prince Valarendrik panickily stared up at the crimson orb in a lame attempt to distract himself from the three menacing spikes poking just below his hairline. He tried desperately to calm his hysteria, but his attempt fell in vain, as a guard handed the Elder Graith a sinister-looking mallet made of obsidian.
Enchanted silvery engravings adorned the mallet's handle, twisting their way up to the sharp spike at the end. The Elder Graith began chanting an ancient incantation, filled with harrowing and malevolent words. Ever so slowly, he began to lift the mallet, readying to strike.
Fear flooded the prince’s veins, drowning every fiber of his being with pure terror. He frantically shifted his anxious gaze over to meet his mother’s vicious one. “Please, mother... no.” He whispered in desperation.
“Crown him.” She fiercely commanded.
Forcefully, the Elder Graith swung the mallet down, violently slamming it against the center of the band. The prince screamed out, writhing in agonizing pain. Sickening wet crunches from the spikes being hammered deeply into his skull resounded through the air. Again the Elder Graith struck, further driving them past the bone and deep within his brain.
The prince’s thrashing body eventually became silent and still. Small trickles of his dark blood dripped down his face, with his crimson eyes drifting apart from the head trauma. His black tears camouflaged with his blood as they streamed down his cheeks. The Elder Graith began ritualistically chanting an unsettling and ancient incantation to summon the dark spirit into the crown.
A shadowy swirling mist martialized over the crown like a whirlwind of pure darkness. Soft sibilant whispers hissed from within its wisping tendrils, as they sinisterly wrapped around the fingerbones, and slowly entered the crown. The bones began to creepily twitch, while the last of the dark spirit was absorbed into them.
And under the crimson moon, Prince Valarendrik was crowned.
The queen excitedly held her hand up, about to announce the wonderful news that her son had officially been crowned and possessed by the great dark spirit. But then she froze in horror when she saw that the boy had begun to abruptly thrash and mumble.
Her face contorted with fear as she watched his small body uncontrollably shake and convulse in the guard's firm clutches. His crimson eyes rolled into the back of his head, making them look like abyssal pools of darkness. Drool dripped from his mouth, while his head rolled around with deranged and jerky movements. Unsure of what to do, the guard roughly dropped him to the ground, where his violent seizure continued.
“What’s happening to him!?” Queen Cerindier panickily screeched to the Elder Graith. “He has two marks! He’s supposed to be able to survive this!” If Valarendrik didn’t survive the crowning, they would lose the dark spirit forever.
The Elder Graith frantically reached for the boy, terrified of losing their sacred dark spirit. “Perhaps it was too much power for him to handle!?” He grabbed the prince’s shoulders in an attempt to still him. However, the panic fell from his face once he fully took in the sight of the boy. “I believe he will survive. The dark spirit is having to fight against Prince Valarendrik’s resistance.” A knowing smirk twisted across his face. He was certain that the boy would lose against the ancient darkness.
After a few anxious moments, the prince eventually fell into unconsciousness, yet the crown still twitched angrily upon his head. “He has survived!” The Elder Graith loudly exclaimed, earning cheers from the crowd all around. “Now, your highness, shall we see what his reign will be like?” His deep raspy voice cooed to the queen.
The queen glared at her son’s limp body with detest. “I suppose it is tradition.” She rolled her eyes, confident that the Elder Graith would prophesy an early death for the child.
“Ah, let us see, then.” The Elder Graith’s gaunt and sickly hand grabbed the prince’s limp one, then he used his long gnarled claw to slice open the boy’s palm. His slimy, slender, black tongue slithered out from between his many rows of sharp needle-like teeth, as he lapped away at the boy’s thick blood. The Graith became still, while visions of Valarendrik’s rule flashed into his mind.
“I already know it’s going to be a short reign. I plan to make sure of it.” The queen mumbled as she uninterestedly turned to look out over the roaring tempests sea, wishing that she could have sacrificed Valarendrik instead of Aldrinan.
“Endless.” The Elder Graith’s chilling voice shot through her like ice in her veins, causing her to freeze in place.
Slowly, the queen warily turned back around with an unwelcome sense of dread in her soul. “What did you say?” She curtly asked.
“Valarendrik’s rule shall be endless, and he will be the most powerful king to ever sit upon the Tenverian throne.” He licked up more of the unconscious prince’s blood. “He will wage war against you, allied with otherworldly beings, and you will die by his hand.”
“What!?” Queen Cerindier furiously spat, as the Elder Graith continued to speak his horrifying prophecy.
“The black clouds of Hsarohpem shall part over the land, and a queen of colors unknown to this world shall rule by his side. His crown will crumble. The dark spirit will die. The serpent will be restored. And King Valarendrik will bring death to death in Tenveriel.” He hissed in disgust at his own words, as if they were vile in his mouth.
The queen hastily swiped her dagger off of the alter. “Well then, we should just kill him now!” She swiftly knelt down while lifting the dagger up over her son, ready to strike without hesitation.
The Elder Graith quickly reached up and grabbed her wrist, stopping her from murdering the prince. “You cannot!” He shouted. “To kill him would be to kill the dark spirit! He must live for the next thousand years, then produce a legitimate heir after his coronation!” He gestured down at the two black lines over the boy’s eye. “No one can survive the crowning without the royal mark of power. And Tenveriel will never accept an uncrowned king.”
Queen Cerindier was furious, but she knew the graith was right. She had to let Valarendrik live long enough to produce a damn heir. “Everyone leave! Get out of here!” She screamed at the crowd as she aggressively stood back up. “Guards! Kill anyone who lingers!”
Everyone quickly scrambled away, mercilessly trampling those who were unfortunate enough to stumble. The queen seethed as she watched them depart. They were like lowly insects to her. Flies buzzing around her gourmet meal.
“We must raise him to believe that his only purpose is to produce an heir, and then perish.” The Elder Graith mentioned from behind her. “But the dark spirit must survive above all else. It is Hsarohpem’s law that the king of Tenveriel must be possessed by it, and the citizens will never except an uncrowned king.” He reiterated.
The queen slightly turned towards him, but still didn’t look him in the face. “And what if it is a mistake to allow him to live so long? He has two marks of power. Once he comes of age and his shadows develop he’ll be more powerful than you and I combined. Even with the orb.” She softly spoke with bitterness in her frosty heart.
“Hmm, I see.” He thoughtfully murmured. “Then we must conceal his shadows within his soul, so they never develop. He will think of himself as a weakling, and we will use the orb’s power to keep him under our control until an heir is born.”
And so, under the cover of darkness and below the waning moon, the Elder Graith and the queen performed an arcane ceremony over the prince. They cast an enchantment that would conceal his shadows, locking them deep within the depths of his soul. So that the boy would never know the power which brewed inside of himself.
Then they left Prince Valarendrik, unconscious and alone, still laying on the cold stone platform. The bloodied crown furiously twitched upon his head, as the dark spirit desperately tried to merge with him. It strenuously tried to hiss and claw it’s way inside of his mind. Yet try as it might, it simply was not compatible with the boy’s unnaturally bright soul.
For while the prince was still within his mother’s womb, the avaricious queen had begun to use the Ophidian Orb to empower her witchcraft. Unknowingly, she strengthened her unborn child to an incredible extent, causing two royal marks of power to form over his eye, instead of one.
Meanwhile and unbeknownst to any tenverian or graith, a confused and foreign cosmic soul had accidently slipped through the cracks of the abyssal shadows. Formed of pure goodness and glimmering celestial light, it had wandered long and lonely through the darkness, desperately searching for a vessel to enter before it would inevitably fade into nothingness.
The bright soul sensed the growing power within the queen's womb and eagerly merged with the unborn child. For he was the only being within the dark world that was powerful enough to carry it’s brightness.
And so, a powerful child of light had been born into a dying world of eternal darkness.
After a while, the prince began struggling to pry his ruby eyes open, and he awoke with a searing pain radiating through the front of his skull. He trembled as he weakly tried to push himself up, only to fall right back down with a pained groan. The dark spirit of the crown was ultimately unable to merge with his soul, and so, it developed a voice of it’s own inside of the prince’s mind.
“Get up... We must get up.” It’s dark sibilant voice eerily spoke into his head.
Prince Valarendrik furrowed his brows in confusion, though he instinctively knew that it was the crown speaking to him. Slowly he pushed himself up to a seated position, with a few strands of his long obsidian hair clinging to his tear and blood encrusted cheeks.
His tremulous hands hesitantly reached up and touched the crown upon his forehead. It twitched, causing his stomach to churn. Bile burned in the back of his throat, while tears of sorrow and disgust welled in his eyes. The reality that his beloved brother’s fingerbones were now permanently attached to his skull shattered his heart and repulsed the very core of his being.
“I’m so sorry, Aldrinan.” He whispered through his soft sobs.
Small pebbles crunched beneath his tiny frame, as he lamely crawled over towards the alter where his brother had been sacrificed. Still dizzy from his head trauma, he used his little clawed hands to weakly pull himself up onto the alter. There he knelt down, mournfully facing out towards the sea. Aldrinan’s menacing twin swords were still lain out upon the stone, crossed and covered in the late princes blood.
The otherworldly blades had a slight curve to them, with sharp spikes adorning the base like monstrous thorns. Their obsidian handles where embellish with equally dark gems, making them as beautiful as they were lethal. The prince felt haunted by the louring weapons, yet nothing in the darkened world was more precious to him at that moment.
Although his love for his brother had been unrequited, as no other tenverian was capable of feeling such a thing, the young prince was still devastated by his death. Sword training with Prince Aldrinan had been Prince Valarendrik’s only source of joy and companionship in this dark and dismal world. And now he was completely alone.
The ashen sea winds blew through the young prince’s wisping hair, and gently flapped through his cloak, as he shakily picked up his brother’s swords. He choked on his own sobs as he grievously hugged them closely against his chest. “I promise that I’ll become the best swordsman in all of The Abyss.” He quietly spoke out towards the waves with great sorrow in his forlorn heart, and black tears streaming down his cheeks.
“For you, Aldrinan.”