“Catch your breath and say that again, Mongrel. How am I supposed to understand when you are huffing like an overworked horse?”
The sweat covered man kneeling in front of the great stone dais swallowed his breath a few times before finding his center. Then, in a slightly calmer voice, gave his report about the attack on the city of Tobn in the north. Of the beasts that could only be seen as monsters. The people who were slaughtered and the ones that were carried off. The inability of the local warriors to defend the city and the death toll that resulted. At the end, the messenger looked up at the god blooded king upon the throne, and his eyes begged wordlessly for aid.
The great king did not move from his reclined position, and merely said with a sneering smile, “Is that all? Truly, it must take little to scare the men of the northern borders. Guards! Take this man away. See he gets food and rest. He’ll be truly worthless otherwise. Siduri!”
“Yes, Lord Gilgamesh,” said the woman as she bowed next to the king.
“”Summon the captain of the guards. It is beneath me, but alas, I must plan the expedition that will be taking place in the north.”
“Yes, Lord Gilgamesh.”
“Order more medicine from the temple and equipment from the blacksmiths. No matter how the expedition fares, there will be a need to replenish our stores.”
“…Yes, Lord Gilgamesh.”
In the momentary silence that followed the departure of those carrying his orders, Gilgamesh picked up the goblet filled with water mixed with fruit juices, and smelled its fragrant spices as he let his mind and eyes wander.
The storm had raged for days by that point. It was malicious in a way that was bizarre for the tropical climates and was usually reserved for the latitudes near the arctic circle. Great waves crashed and foamed, striking one another in a maze of ever shifting madness that threatened to capsize the Golden Hind should the crew relent for even a moment. Every man aboard the ship had been sleeping and eating in turns, the galley working constantly to keep warm food going for the half dozen men who could be spared at a time.
The snap of cordage echoed faintly as the topmen of the sailing vessel raced to replace it, and then send the ruined rope to the belly of the ship to be stockpiled for unraveling and then splicing with another ruined cord. The ship had only been ravaged for a few days, but weeks worth of material had been used to keep the ship afloat. Men’s fingers bled from these repairs, but they could not afford to stop longer than the time it took to be bandaged up.
The tearing winds and the endless rain pounded the bodies of the veteran sailors such that it wouldn’t be surprising if their willpower broke from the constant strain. But the sailors were a veteran crew, and as privateers under the greatest captain alive, their pride kept them moving. Especially-
“Loosen those halyards, ya dogs! Or do you want to be mastless in this piss poor excuse for an ocean!?”
Their Captain was in the middle of her third straight trick at the wheel of the ship. Captain Drake had been tirelessly navigating the treacherous waters at the helm, finding her path by instinct alone ever since the compass began spinning crazily at the beginning of the storm. Eating and drinking without ever letting both hands leave the wheel she only left the helm in the hands of her most capable pilots during the short times she allowed herself to sleep. It was this constant effort on the part of their captain that pushed the crew beyond their normal capabilities.
“Wave to starboard,” called the faint voice of the lookout as he tore his throat to be heard above the storm. All eyes turned to see a giant wave, twice as large as any others they’d faced in that mad race against the elements barreling down on them.
“All hands brace!”
The voice of the captain was echoed up and down the ship, as men both young and grizzled gripped the nearest solid objects in fear for their lives as their captain changed tack. The Golden Hind turned sharp and hard, unbelievable amounts of hydraulic pressure working against the hull and the rudder. Drake felt the pain of her vessel echo inside her soul as she yelled a fierce challenge against the wind and a gleam of power shot from her hands, into the wheel, through the steering post, and out into the rest of the seasoned timber that the Golden Hind was made from, reinforcing the wood just enough to not buckle like a paper mache toy. Turning to face the oncoming wave, the Golden Hind’s bow and figurehead was plunged into the surf at the base of the wave before the ship changed angle swiftly enough to wrench a man’s meal from his guts.
The Golden Hind began to climb, steep and swift as the insane winds filled the minimal sails. The Hind climbed. And climbed. A full minute, straight up. Two minutes. And then, there at the peak of the cresting wave, where sea foam was turned into ice crystals from the change in atmospheric pressure, did gravity lose all meaning for the split second before the Golden Hind began to plummet. Grown men found that their footing was lost in that psycho dive down the back side of the monster wave, their legs hanging in the air from the swiftly increasing velocity as the Golden Hind rushed to meet the carpet of churning sea and foam at the wave’s base.
“Hold hard, men! HOLD HARD!”
The impact of meeting the sea was like being kicked by a mule. Each and every man aboard the Golden Hind was tossed about. The men in the rigging spun around like the masts were attempting to fire them from a sling. The men on deck held their breaths the same as they held their grips as the merciless sea passed over them, threatening to drag them off and into the watery void that lay beneath. The men inside the ship lost all concept of direction as they were pressed against walls and ceilings, trying to preserve themselves from broken bones and busted skulls.
And then the mortal moments passed, with each and every man having survived by the skin of their teeth.
The sound of their captain laughing madly at the storm set the sailors off laughing themselves, calling for that bitch mother nature to try and kill them again, cause her hardest obviously wasn’t cutting it. And off into that mad sea the brave sailors ventured, in a world without any landfall.
Richard the Lionhearted raised the object of power he carried to bring forth his greatest weapon. The one which he would use for the conquest of the prize he’d longed for even after death.
The ritual was completed and the pillar of light descended from the sky. If the man had been an experienced Magus instead of a power mad Servant he’d have known the light had come from the wrong direction.
When the light faded, inside was the picture of refined knighthood. The King of Knights was there in full plate armor, astride his mighty steed with his lance held upward, in a salute, Richard reckoned.
“Ah, an excellent entrance. A fellow king, I take it, since your armor is patterned after the Lion of England,” said King Richard the 3rd.
The mounted figure said nothing and looked around. Their expression was inscrutable under the great mask and golden cloak that flowed down their back.
“…I am the one that summoned you. I am your Master, your ruler. You will answer when I ask you a question.”
The mounted figure finally looked directly at the one who’d summoned him, and said, “Unworthy.”
“What,” sputtered King Richard as his face twisted in menace. “How dare you call my ability to question! I am your rightful Master!”
“You misunderstand,” said the summoned figure calmly, their green eyes glowing slightly with an inner power that could not be comprehended by mortal notions. “I merely say you are unworthy of preserving.”
They knelt by instinct instead of through fear or fealty. How could they not?
The giant of a man had not challenged the soldiers of Rome. He made no demands, he made no threats, he spoke no words at all. But his presence alone had commanded the Roman soldiers into cowed reverence. On their bent knees, the breath of the experienced warriors grew ragged and terrified.
They had approached the man before them with the intention of doing battle. They had no room to argue should he decide to execute them all.
“Raise your heads,” said the dark skinned giant in magnanimity. Hesitantly, the soldiers did so. And so made the mistake of letting their eyes fall on the strange giant once more. As they did, their blood boiled inside their bodies with a passionate ferventness they had never known. The only one who had the will to speak was the officer in charge of the border patrol.
“W-who are you, that your mere presence-”
The giant held up a hand to silence the officer, who’s words ended in bated breath, and said, “I am your Emperor. Serve me, as is your nature as true born citizens of Rome.”
The deep voice of the stranger was compelling, and almost drew the officer in. But his loyalty was not so easily crushed as he said, “We already serve Rome as pr-proud legionaries. We serve Emperor Nero Claudius!”
“Do not worry,” said the gentle and dynamic giant as he bent down, looking the officer in the eye. The next words out of the stranger’s mouth melted the Legion officer’s heart, and reforged it as a true follower.
“By serving me, you serve Rome itself.”
The howling of the pursuers grew louder as their laughter echoed behind the fleeing refugees of Washington DC. The capital had collapsed after the Union Army had finally been routed. The barbarians flooded the city and swept away all who had either been too slow in following the evacuation order or scoffed at it in stark pride. All that remained in the capital had been conquered, consumed, despoiled, and thrown away. And the victors were closing in on the dispirited survivors even then.
The desperate men and women threw down their meager belongings and ran even though they knew there was no outrunning these chain mailed marauders. And as the mouth frothing berserkers closed in-
“FIRE,” came the command as though from the roar of a lion.
The musket barrage felled the first ranks of the charging celtic warriors from the side, staggering their charge towards the civilians in surprise. The following carpet bombing of lasers fired from flying books and bolts of electricity bombarded the remaining celtic warriors, who then turned and charged the rag tag remnants of the Union Army and their strange leaders. The Union Soldiers already had bayonets fixed, and the battle devolved into bloody melee to allow the survivors of America to continue their journey to the west, and it’s relative safety.
In a secret chamber deep under the streets of London, forgotten by all civilized folk, lay the resting body of the young man who was tired from fighting against himself. His nature was tearing at him. His nature as a human, that was at war with his nature as a tool. The young man from the far east thrashed and chewed his saliva, trying to master the Command from his King.
But he knew it was impossible. He did not have the courage to kill himself, and he did not have enough willpower to suffer for the sake of others, not for much longer. It only took another few minutes for him to knuckle under, and return to his labors. His plotting. His destruction of the center of western culture and the world along with it.
He returned to the machine he was creating in the heart of the earth. The power of the Grail he was given allowing a putrid mass to collect like morning dew at the bottom of the great stone bowl that filled the chamber, slowly giving form to the giant device that his imagination set forth into birthing.
Again the young mage had given in, had given up hope. And again some hours later he could try and fight his inner nature again. But the time periods between these bouts of resistance to his true self were becoming longer and longer.
Would a time come when he surrendered completely, wondered Makiri Zolgen.
Would a time come when he completed his plan to destroy the world, wondered the man who was once Makiri Zolgen.
Would a time come when someone could stop him, wondered Makiri Zolgen.
Would a time come when his inner nature crushed all who tried to stop him, wondered the man who was once Makiri Zolgen.
The foreign mage fell to the ground again, convulsing as he fought against his inner nature.
The golden haired King of Heroes allowed the mongrel worker to remove the leftovers from the pleasant meal he had with the boy who’d summoned him, and sipped the last of the wine from his goblet. He set down the golden work of art that was his drinking vessel and turned towards nothing. Speaking to the nothing, the Servant Gilgamesh said, in full confidence, “Do try to hold out.”
The King sitting on his throne in the city of Uruk blinked lightly, and swallowed the fruit and spice laced water from his chalice. It was only a small peek, but it told him enough.
Hard times were ahead. And the greatest king that ever had and ever would walk the face of the Earth had his work cut out for him.