The enigmatic god-Emperor is the ruler of mankind and the savior of humanity. His true name, his place of origin, and age are unknown. The god-Emperor arrived during humanity’s direst hour to lead mankind to victory in the Great War against the demonic armies of hell. He destroyed the Black Road, a nightmarish gateway to the twisted realm of hell. For this heroic act he is known as the savior of humanity and is worshiped as a god. Before his mysterious departure, he named Charlemagne as his steward to rule the Empire of Mankind in his absence.
The Emperor destroying the black road
Under a violet sky, hooves chopped up the dirt as a snow-white steed galloped towards the encampment. A cloaked knight, clad in bronze armor, rode with haste upon his warhorse. His armor glinted like gold, and his red cloak billowed behind him like a ship sail.
A group of warriors watched as the cloaked knight approached their camp. Thick fur cloaks covered their frames, broadswords were sheathed about their waists, and iron helmets with two horns each rested upon their heads. These were Norsemen warriors who were ready for battle. The warriors numbered around two hundred in total.
The Norsemen were gathered to fight the demons, but most of them carried no illusions that it would be a hopeless endeavor. The demon had already swept across the land and laid waste to many cities and kingdoms of men. What was another two hundred warriors going to achieve against the armies of demons? Perhaps they thought it was hopeless, but they were Norsemen; in Norse culture there is no greater honor than death on the battlefield. They would stand and fight, even if it meant their own end.
The cloaked knight slowed his warhorse as he approached the gathered warriors.
“Hail, warriors.” spoke the hero. His voice sounded humbler than his knightly appearance would otherwise suggest.
The Norsemen chieftain, Charlemagne, stepped forward to welcome the cloaked knight.
“Who are ye o’knight who would join us into battle against the demons?” Charlemagne questioned the knight.
“I have come to lead you warriors into battle.” said the knight as he lowered his hood to reveal his face. His rugged voice was commanding and hopeful like he was certain of victory.
The knight carried a rugged face, a bushy beard, and eyes the color of flint. He wore dark-brown hair to his shoulders. His long hair was greasy and uncombed as if the knight had been traveling for many weeks in the wilderness. The hero looked pensive, as if he carried the whole weight of the world upon his broad shoulders. There was something…otherworldly about the knight.
“You wish to lead us?” Charlemagne paused then continued, “then bloody do so already you arse.” The knight smiled back at the jest.
Then suddenly, the deepening sound of a horn could be heard blowing in the distance. A horde of demons came out of nowhere and descended upon the Norsemen’s camp. The knight began to shout commands to form up a shield wall. The Norsemen ran to lock shields and form a wall against the approaching demons and the warriors drew their swords in preparation of the coming battle.
The demons rushed towards the defenders with no regard to pathetic thoughts of self preservation. The demons were felled in vast numbers, but the demons were endless in number and they managed to drag some of the Norsemen out of the shield wall formation. When the demons captured a warrior in this way they tore their victim limb-from-limb, blood spraying in quick and gushing spurts.
In the midst of the chaotic battle, the knight spoke strange words in an unfamiliar language, and the demons suddenly started to catch fire and burn. The golden knight shone with a brilliant, radiant light aura that seemed to burn the demons’ flesh away. The demons screamed in hatred, but it was no use as they burned to ashes before the warriors.
When the fighting was over every Norsemen bowed their head to the knight. They recognized that this knight was some kind of hero who wielded power capable of defeating the demons. Perhaps there was hope after all.
“Who…are ye o’ knight?” said Charlemagne.
“I am the Emperor of Mankind” spoke the knight. The weight of history and the potential of a glorious future were carried in every syllable.
The Great War
Word of the demon-slaying hero spread like wildfire. Upon hearing of his deeds, people flocked to follow him creating a kind of patchwork army. Some that joined were trained soldiers, but most were peasants wielding pitchforks or clubs. Nevertheless, this unlikely army believed victory was somehow possible because of their faith in their leader. In this way the Emperor now lead an army numbering in the thousands. The purpose of this army was to march Westto find and destroy the gateway to hell the demons used known as the Black Road. The Emperor only hoped he had enough strength for the coming war.
At long last, the Emperor ordered his army to march West. The first days of the journey were easy-going. The towns and villages they passed could be seen in various stages of ruination, but still recognizable. The going got worse the further the army marched until the landscape itself had turned to a blackened wasteland. The sky was filled with storm clouds and it rained nothing but white ashes. Lava could be seen flowing in rivers consuming the once beautiful land.
It took days of sporadic marching-and-fighting in this miserable environment, before the army reached its final destination – the fabled capital of Westmarch. The city was the epicenter of the destruction because it was here that the Black Road resided. Reality here was warped into a hellish and twisted mockery of itself. Flames had consumed all the once beautiful buildings and all that was left were blackened stones. Any soul that still roamed the land were now twisted beyond recognition clad only in their unnaturally pale flesh.
Charlemagne was the closest companion of the Emperor and served as a commander in his army during this time.
The city of Westmarch was built against a mountain, and on that mountain were a thousand stairs carved from the bare rock winding way up the steep cliff of the mountain. The Emperor and Malcador walked shoulder-to-shoulder up these winding stone stairs until, ahead of them, a glowing portal in the unmistakable ruins of a castle of immense proportions stood before them.
The Emperor turned towards Merlin and instructed him to wait from a distance while he went ahead alone up the stairs towards the twisting violet portal above them.
The Emperor’s sword then burst into a ball of orange flame. Bright fire roared up the blade and lit up the Emperor’s surroundings in a bright orange tint. His garments dissolved into smoke, revealing a gleaming golden suit of armor and a magnificent blood-red cloak. Within seconds the Emperor had shed his unassuming human image into that of a living god. The golden armour was regal in nature, and was clearly expertly crafted. In all his years, Merlin had never seen practicality and art commune in such a perfect way. With his right hand, the Emperor grabbed the hilt of his flaming sword and charged up the remaining steps towards the chaotic raging violet portal that stood at the summit.
The portal lashed out with violet tendrils of magical energy, forcing the Emperor to grapple onto the ground and brace for impact. It was as if the gateway was somehow a living organism and got angrier and more vengeful the closer the Emperor got to it. Merlin had quickly taken cover and he observed through a crack in the wall how the Emperor reflected every lash of energy from the gate and simply continued ahead. The Emperor pressed forward while the lashes of violet energy quickly transformed into a torrential hurricane of magical power.
The Emperor raised his sword up high, the flames were pushed back and formed a sweeping trail of fire that leap from the end of his blade. With one monstrous swing, the flaming sword impacted the raging portal with such tremendous force that the ground itself begun to shake from the sheer violence of it. Deafening high pitched squeals emanated from the portal, and cracks started to spread out from where the sword struck to all over the unnatural structure. It was seconds before the portal collapsed in on itself, disturbingly all while squealing, in a blinding violet explosion. Merlin looked away from the blinding flash of light and then back again. Surely nothing could have survived such a powerful blast of magical energy? Yet even as the dust and debris begun to settle Merlin witnessed that the Emperor still standing where he had been, unhurt and unfazed. His sword, now a simple iron sword once again, and his golden radiant armor replaced with a plain dull-bronze armor. Was the golden visage of the hero Merlin saw a dream? Or had it been reality? Merlin could not be so sure either way.
Merlin stepped towards the Emperor and knelt down at the summit of the former castle. “My liege, lead us and we will follow, even to the very ends of this earth! What next is your will of us?”
The Emperor stood and calmly observed the broken ruins of Westmarch around him. He then slowly sheathed his sword before responding.
“We continue, my friend, on our Great Crusade that we have started upon. Though the portal lies closed, that tear in the sky will forever remain, and there are still hordes of demons we must cleanse and banish to whence they came. Arm yourself brother, for the path towards salvation is a treacherous one.”
The emperor and Merlin rejoined the rest of their forces at the bottom of the steps. Though their leader had returned to a more human form, none would ever forget the golden warrior that broke the gate at the top of the stone staircase. All stood in awe of this man than now stood among them.
With the portal closed, the remaining beasts began to fade away into the mist. With their tether to their own twisting dimension now severed, there was nothing to anchor themselves to the mortal realm. Though the great tear in the sky still remained, the rate at which demons seeped into the physical plain was greatly diminished. It was also now that the warriors who had been closest to the portal began to start to show signs of the corruption like what they had seen in Westmarch. The victims’ skin would rapidly turn an unnatural hue of lilac, next hideous new limbs would erupt from their bodies! This was a disease, a plague of devastation! And it was spreading quickly amongst the men.
It was then that the Emperor decreed a cleansing of all who displayed any signs of the corruption. “A new empire must rise from a pure foundation. Just as no tree can grow tall if its roots are diseased”.
Merlin understood the necessity of this action, but he did not take pleasure in carrying out the order. This was the first time Merlin truly questioned the humanity of the Emperor. As a leader himself, Merlin admired his ability to make the right choice regardless of how harsh it may seem. But as a man, he was disturbed by the Emperors lack of concern or worry for the words he had spoken. He seemed unnervingly calm about the thought of slaughtering those men who had so bravely fought beside him. Alas, his orders were carried out. By early morning, no broken or corrupted soul was left alive in the crusader army, and the surviving population of both Westmarch and the crusaders was reduced to a fraction of what they had once were. It would be many generations before the villages and towns of men would recover fully from the war. Of those few that remained, all were free from the violet corruption. On the third day after the destruction of the gateway, the violet rage subsided nearly entirely, and blue skies were once more seen overhead. Upon seeing the clear blue skies for the first time in months, all forgot their sorrows and rejoiced! For salvation was finally here and the war was over at long last. The mysterious hero from unknown origin had achieved in months what no king had managed in a lifetime – to unite the disparate human kingdoms, tribes, and clans into a singular human empire.
It was then the warriors and citizens alike began to rejoice and make preparations for a grand feast. The announcement that the Emperor would make there would change the face of his new Empire forever.
The survivors of the great crusade celebrated for days on end. Soldier and citizen alike bonded over plentiful food and drink, as the lords and chieftains watched over the celebrations, resting their muscles and cleaning their blades properly for the first time in what felt like eternity. All seemed as it should be, except that is for the Emperor himself. The Emperor remained pensive, present in body but not in mind. His gaze trailed off past the banquet tables and through the arched gate beyond the great hall. No one seemed to notice the Emperors state, no one that is except for Merlin. As his right hand man, Merlin had grown to know the Emperor as well as any mortal could possibly hope to know a being like him. From across the room, he stared at his liege, attempting futilely to unveil what mysterious burden weighed so heavily upon him.
It was as if the Emperor knew something more. As if this victory meant everything to the ignorant and nothing to the wise. Hours went by and the people started to settle. It was then that the Emperor finally lifted his gaze to meet Merlin’s eyes. He called out to Merlin with gesture, and walked up from the high table.
They walked to a secluded section of the castle outside the great hall, away from prying eyes and curious minds. The golden armor that protected the emperor once more turned a dull metallic color, as if the armor had life all its own, and desired no unnecessary attention before their private conversation took place.
“I bring news of the future Merlin, and I wanted you to be the first to hear it. As my closest companion, it is your right after all”.
Merlin nodded but said nothing. Listening in total silence while the Emperor explained to him of the true nature of chaos, including the threat that the gods of chaos still posed. For the Emperor explained to Merlin that the gods of chaos were beaten but not broken. Even now they would be licking their wounds and rebuilding their strength in the safety of their own unearthly realm. The gods of chaos were also infinitely patient, it might be 100 years or 10,000 years, but chaos would one day return, and in much greater strength, to finish off what they had started. The only hope for mankind to prevent this inevitable future would be to destroy the gods of chaos once and for all. This would require an army to do battle directly against the gods of chaos in their own realm.
“Your men my lord will follow you to whatever end, even to the end of the world!” proclaimed Merlin
“The realm of chaos is no place fit for the living. Noneof you may follow where I go, and no living soul outside of the two of us must know my true purpose and my current whereabouts”
“I do not understand lord, how can you lead an army if we cannot follow you?”
“The faithful may serve in my army. For when those faithful to the cause pass from this realm, their souls carry into the next so that they still might serve me in the final battle against chaos.”
“And what would you have me do?” questioned the chieftain.
“Time flows strangely in the warp Merlin. I might be gone for a day, I might be gone for 100,000 years I cannot say for certain. In my absence I need someone whom I can trust to protect and administer the Empire to ensure that chaos does not take root once more. I cannot fight multiple wars at once you understand Merlin. And you will not live forever either, you and your successors must remain resolute and defend the Empire from the ever present threat of chaos, both within and without. This nascent empire will require lords, knights, and faith; this you must provide to them Merlin. I shall meanwhile be occupied with the Eternal Crusade to destroy the sinister gods of chaos, and to eliminate the threat they pose to mankind, once and for all.”
The heavy truth of this was the burden that the Emperor had carried alone until now. Malcador now understood his purpose and why the Emperor had selected him for this great responsibility.
“Your will shall be done, my friend”.
“Let us now go back to the feasting hall, Merlin. In time I will address our people, and let them know what they must while keeping the truth between us. I have faith you will succeed in my place brother, only do so while keeping as much truth as you can away from the masses. Our people are too weak and imperfect to handle the facts of our universe. To protect them, we must shield them from the truth.”
Merlin remained pensive, disturbed by those final words. What kind of leader would use deceit as a form of control? What kind of leader would call his people weak? Perhaps he was out of line, or too ignorant to see the real reasons behind the Emperor’s choice, but something seemed inherently wrong about the way his superior was choosing to handle this. After all, if a leader has no faith in his people, how can he ever demand his people to have faith in him?
“Brothers. Sisters. Today is a day of celebration! A day of great pride for all of us still here. The foul beasts have been tamed by our swords and even now they welter and die at our feet! Every one of you has forged a saga worth telling for to your own children and to generations yet to come! But I am afraid the luxury of celebration is not something that I can afford for myself”.
We have destroyed the gate from whence the daemons have come at us, and we have slaughtered every monstrous beast in our path! I have led you all into the fiery tribulations of war, and together we have emerged victorious! Alas…the journey, and the fight, are not yet over for me. Soon I must depart and leave you in the strong hands of Merlin. You should expect my return, but you should not hold your breath, for my journey has an equal chance of being short as it has of being long.
I know many of you, lords and soldiers alike, expected me to lead you, for me to remain in this land and govern our new realm that we forged together with our blood, our toil, and our sacrifice. And though with all my heart I wish that could be so,it may not. Tomorrow before dawn I shall depart, and I shall not return for what may seem like an endless age. Do not wait for me and do not go looking for me, for I shall not be there. I do not leave you however without direction. I name Merlin as my regent for to me he is as a brother. He will be my voice where I cannot be heard, he will be my sword where I cannot strike, and he will be my will where I cannot act. To defy this man is to defy me. To betray him is to betray me. To suffer his wrath, is to suffer mine! Merlin is tasked to organize a new system of government for this new age of ours, and he will lead you to rebuild in accordance with my vision. I will protect you all in body and in spirit, from today unto eternity! Find faith in my words, find solace in my wisdom, and prosper.”
After the Emperor gave his speech, silence had washed over the room. Faces pale as ghosts showed in the visage of everyone present. Fear, shock and sadness formed the aftermath of the emperors troubling announcement. Murmurs grew from the deafening silence, and before long full on panic broke out, lords and their warriors hurried to rein the crowds in, as what was recently a feast morphed quickly into a riot, fueled by the rather uncomfortable and unsettling feeling of abandonment. How could mankind survive without the Emperor’s divine guidance? Who else other than the Emperor could hold back the horde of daemonic beasts with such ease? How would this new realm be governed? Would the Northerners and other foreigners be expected to be integrated with Westmarch? Questions flew from one end of the room to another. Angry declarations meshed with weeping pleads for the Emperor to stay, all rising in intensity until a roar silenced the crowd once more.
It was the Emperor, standing once more at the high table, anger now governing his features. His armor was now a fiery-tinted gold. What Malcador witnessed was a sign of power so absolute, he knew a god was standing before him. No further words came out of the Emperor, he simply stood there, making everyone present feel alone and ashamed of their actions. No one dared break the silence that the Emperor had commanded, and one-by-one, the warriors and lord trailed off to their tents. The feast was over and the hall was cleared out until only Merlin and the Emperor remained by the smoldering coals of the great fireplace.
“How will I do your vision justice, my lord?”
In that question Merlin confessed all his fears for the coming years, and the self-doubt in his own ability.
The Emperor smiled and placed a hand on his companion’s shoulder and spoke:
“You are a great chieftain Merlin. You are the only man whom has ever defied me and yet lived to tell of it! You should know you are alone in that distinction. Together we have grown close these past months, and I trust you completely. Not because I believe you will rule exactingly true to my vision, but because you will do what is necessary and what is right for mankind. When you are in dire need of my guidance you may call out to me in spirit…and I shall answer.”
Malcador smiled back and felt confidence return to himself.
“Until tomorrow then” said Malcador.
“Until tomorrow” spoke the Emperor as they both rose and departed from the dying coals of the fire.
Those were to be the last words that the Emperor ever spoke directly to Malcador. By the next morning, the Emperor had vanished from his quarters and Malcador was left to carry on the Emperor’s vision and ensure that the threat of chaos would be kept at bay long enough for the Emperor to complete his mission to save mankind.