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Once, there was the Scourge of Za'ak (Solo)


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The planet Za’ak

Over two thousand three hundred years ago, in Kharag's memories...


Kharag remembered. There is no such thing as delicate grass on Za'ak.


Even in the lush jungles, there was no such thing as delicate grass that moved in the wind. From these jungles to the scrublands, the ground was only covered in sharp, hard and durable plants which grew from the soil with little to no need for water. There were countless varieties of these plants, but most of them were tall and thin with jagged spikes. In these fields, life was teeming with all manners of small life, which scuttled around the ground, either avoiding the spikes or simply being immune to them.


There is no such thing as delicate grass on Za'ak.


A small six-legged reptilian creature, covered in quills, was digging the ground for roots and small insects. Unfortunately for it, it would be a bad day. It's last day, in fact, as it found itself swallowed up by a much larger reptillian beast, which didn't even bother to chew. It simply gobbled it up, hungry from these long days of travel. "Hold! Hennek, hold!" It's rider said, pulling the reins. The creature shrieked and barked loudly. His mount hungry, Kharag took out a chunk of his rations and handed it over to the long-necked beast, which voraciously ate it. "There there..."


Kharag turned, looking at the horizon, waiting for his army to arrive. It was typical of him to ride ahead with the scouts, as he had means to keep in touch with his troops across great distances. The field of thorny plants was shaking at the aproach of his army. Kharag had left with an army eight hundred men strong and arrived at the location with only roughly more than six hundred. Mobilizing a large army across Za'ak was no easy feat, as the environment had a certain habit of eating them. Sometimes literally. At the front, footsoldiers, armed with newly-forged spears and shields of steel, in the back archers and fire-throwers. Cavalry moving around the formations to ward off predators.


"They've set up fortifications." One of his scout said, observing their target from above a hill. "Then we will ready the fire-throwers." Kharag said. Some brews were so potent that could allow one to 'breathe' fire, but Kharag's army had learned to refine the mixture and make bombs out of them. To their opponents, it was as if the army could summon fire at will.


Kharag didn't need to address his army in person. He didn't need to speak to organize his troops. He would mentally relay his messages to the relevant commander, who would issue his orders. With everyone given proper instruction, they would wait for the signal.


"TO BATTLE WE RIDE! FORWARD! HIYAAAAA!" Kharag yelled, riding ahead of his cavalry, right into the enemy fortifications. The rest would follow, as planned.

Edited by RobRX
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The planet Za’ak

After the battle...


Kharag remembered. The blood of the Za'akis was thick and purple.


His army had won the day, but half of the city they attacked was in complete ruin. The fire bombs had started a chain reaction which consumed the city in flame. Not that the outside was any better. It had been a battlefield, after all and already the scavengers were doing their work. Aas quickly as possible, Kharag's men were piling up the bodies in piles around the city as to not attract the swarms of creatures, which would then turn on the still-living soldiers as soon as they would be done with the bodies. That was how it was on Za'ak. Had they had more fire bombs, the bodies would have been burned. As he moved around the battlefield, Kharag casually removed the arrows which had embedded themselves in his hide.


The blood of the Za'akis was thick and purple.


Another battle, another reckless and impossible deed to add to the list. Charging a barricade, only to suffer a mishap and have one of his own men explode, setting Kharag and his mount on fire. The then incendiary Kharag proceeded to use this as a shock tactic as he made his mount leap behind the barricade, setting everything on fire in their path. Of course the whole thing had been pretty taxing on the beast, fortunately it's hide was tough enough to avoid suffering critical burns.


"My king, we've brought to you Samazh, the master of the city." said one of the Za'akis warrior carrying a restrained man. Pushed, Samazh fell to his knees. Despite his fear, he looked up to the god-king.


"Samazh. I heard you tried to escape during the battle. Is it true?" Kharag said, not even bothering to look at his former opponent.


"What's the point of answering? I know your sorcery will you tear my mind apart for the answers!" the former lord replied, spitting on the ground, shaking in his bonds.


"I am kind. That is why I will let you answer me with your voice, not your mind. You are a warrior, Samazh and you will act and speak like one, not like a coward." Kharag lowered himself to Samazh's level, looking him in the eyes. "It did not have to end this way. But you refused the offer to join me, then you dared attack my caravans."


"Caravans? Psht! Scouts! Marauders! I was only keeping my people safe from your machinations. You are a fiend, Kharag. A demon clad in flesh. I pray to the gods that one day, someone will break you and put you back in your place!" Samazh then spat in Kharag's eye.


"I have the god's ears. You don't. Heal your wounds, then I will fight you for the control of the city and it's clans. Now you will rise and you will leave my sight." Dramatically, he pointed away and the soldiers took Samazh, dragging him away. "Cowardly fool. What a pathetic sight he was."


"If you asked me what the pathetic sight here truly was, I would be inclined to say it was...you." Kharag immediately froze in place. He knew that voice. He knew it all too well and he also clearly remembered that the person the voice belonged had passed away. Very slowly, he turned around. Walking across the battlefield was an incredibly old Za'akis, his dark blue skin cracked and worn, his shape bent and twisted with age.


"No. You weren't there when we took this city. You were dead, your spirit sent to the highest of realms, as befitting someone of your wisdom." He said, his voice almost cracking.


"Oh, I am dead. I truly am, what else would I be, hmmm? Am I a ghost? A divine messenger? Or am I simply the image of Ghakarizi you carry inside you. It does not matter. What matter is my message." The old man said, stopping halfway to cough.


"And what is your message, great sage?" Asked Kharag, nervous at this sudden apparition. His answer came in the form of a blow to his head from the old man's staff. "Ow." Somehow, that staff still managed to hurt just as much as when he was but a boy and would get a tap on the head for misbehavior.


"I am very disapointed in you."

Edited by RobRX
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"I have done what none had ever achieved before; in a hundred or so years, no less, I united the entirety of Za'ak. I took the spoils of war and the knowledge of all conquered clans and nations. With it, I made a repository of knowledge for the brightest minds of our people to study. In but a single century, our people became more prosperous than ever before." Kharag said, unsure as to why his old and now long-gone mentor would express any form of disapointment at his actions. He had taken the Za'akis out of near-primordial mud into an era of technological and social progress. "Science. Medecine. Agriculture. The art of war. All taken to whole new heights."


"Yes, undeniable. But at what cost?" The old man looked at his pupil with his worn out, cataract-covered eyes. "Let us walk."


"Our people have always been hunters, warriors and survivors. Do you dare to tell me only now that this path has, somehow, always been wrong?" He couldn't accept that his mentor would go back on his words.


"No. We are more than just a singular being. In us is the mark of our ancestors but also the world around us. Had you chosen the peaceful route, you would have failed, for our blessed soil is not a peaceful one. However it does not excuse all of your actions. The young warrior's heart burns brightly, eager to consume. Your agelessness is your curse, for you have never known what it is to grow old and weak. Being so...diminished gives you a certain perspective. So does a deep sense of loss and regret. However you have only ever truly felt loss only once in your life."


"You dare say that I am unwise? That I am a childish fool?!" He shouted, before realizing he was yelling at his mentor. Something he would have never done long ago.


"Perhaps so. You certainly seem to come to this conclusion yourself, hmmm?" The old man grinned, showing his worn and yellowed teeth. "To tell you the truth, I did what I could but not even my wisdom could quell your lust for glory. You were young and as impetuous as any other young warrior. Eager to carve your very name into mountains. However, understand that to every action there is a weight and a consequence and the more powerful the individual, the heavier the consequence. Consequences, in themselves, can be good or bad."


Kharag waited, hoping his mentor would further elaborate as he felt disgusted at the very idea of second-guessing himself. It was not something he could have allowed back in the days.


"It is a new era, Kharag. A new beginning but also an ending. It is time for you to faces the consequences of your actions. What you do from now on is, once again, all in your hands. In due time you will also face the consequences of these actions. We are all bound by the repercussions of the fate we carve for ourselves."

Edited by RobRX
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The old man walked across the battlefield. A battlefield which actually did not exist, at least not anymore. It was simply a fragment of Kharag's memory, forever preserved in time inside his mind down to the very last gory and unsightly details. "The foundation of any empire, Kharag, is not simply the leader. In fact, the foundation of any group is and always will be it's people. If there is no one to follow a leader then is he truly a leader, hmm?"


"Have you only return from the other world to belittle me, old man? I have done without your assistance for many years now." Kharag really wasn't appreciating being belittled as if he was some unruly child. Which he used to be. "I am the King. I am absolute."


"Your laws are absolute. Your words are absolute. But you...are you so absolute?" The old man said, slowly turning around, his cane sinking into the ground to support his hunched body.


Angered, Kharag shouted: "If you were any other being, man or god I would strike you down where you stand!" His fists were clenched tight, even if he knew he'd never be able to raise his hand and strike down his mentor.


"Perhaps the mistake is solely mine." Ghakarizi sighed. "I tried to raise you to be a great king, the wisest of all, a peerless warrior just as much as a man of reason. One who would not succumb to cruelty nor egotism. Perhaps I should have defied the gods and hidden you true origins from you, then perhaps you would have been more humble. Or perhaps the mistake lied in letting you listen to all these stories from the warriors in the city, as you sought to not only emulate them and surpass them. But then, what right did I have to control you so? To stiffle you and force you to follow the path I and only I intended."


"The weight of actions." Kharag repeated, understanding that what applied to him applied just as much to his mentor, if not more so in a way. "Wait. You would have defied the gods?"


"If I had to in order to raise you better and impart you greater wisdom? Then yes, absolutely. Their age and time was already coming to an end. You know how the stories go; generations upon generations of gods. In time, gods would have given over their place to the mortals. It was but a matter of time. That is why they made you; you were meant to be the bridge between these two eras. Now it is more true than ever before, as the gods are bound to not interfere with the affairs of mortals." Ghakarizi stopped and looked up. He was standing before the door of the city Kharag had just conquered and partially burned down.


"So what am I to do, if the age of gods is long gone?"


"Then perhaps you ought to no longer appear as a god to the Za'akis. A living god, to bridge the spiritual and material world is perhaps not what they need anymore."


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  • 1 month later...

"You say it is a different era but are you so sure? Are you so certain there ever was change in era? Is the world still not ruled by violence and brutality? Do the weak still not die, sometimes without ever a change of fighting? How is this still not the savage world of survival?" Wondered Kharag, unsure at how exactly his time was any different from this time, this so-called modern age. "That the gods are around or not does not matter; I am still here. I can still continue with my old purpose and if I cannot? Well, I have many purposes. All the gods, demons and spirits vanishing from heaven and earth would remove my purpose in being a warrior and conqueror!"


"And once again are you so certain? Do not be so simplistic, Kharag. A destructive hand of the gods is not what our people need and neither do they need a conqueror. Well, hmm, at the very least it is what my heart tells me. Could I be wrong? Possibly. And before you bring up my long and glorious history of deep insight and wisdom sharing remember that I can, indeed, be quite wrong. As I have just admitted to have raised you in the wrong way." The old man replied, continuing his slow walk across the imaginary scenery formed from Kharag's centuries-old memories.


"Then what am I to be? Can't you conjure up at least that wisdom?!" Shouted back the former king, exasperated at this conversation seemingly going in circles.


"I cannot with any certainty. I do know that strength and power alone are not enough, especially not anymore. Believe whatever you want, today is not an era of brute overwhelming strength. There is also unbreakable will and a just course of action. Beside, you were always a quick learner and quite adaptable; do not wallow in melodrama! Not only is it quite shameful of you but also quite unproductive. Need I remind you lazyness is a sin? Hmmm, no of course I don't. Trust your instincts, my son, but open yourself to the new world and new thoughts. Once you bridge between the world of spirits and mortals and perhaps now you must bridge between past and future, history and progress. Neither is stronger than the other." The old man nodded, quite satisfied by his ramblings. However, Kharag was quite surprised by a specific word.


"What...what did you call me?" He asked, surprise...nay, shocked. "You've never called me that before. Why now?"


"Yes yes, I've made mistakes. I would say even fewer people get to fix them beyond the grave. Fortunately for you, you are not on this side yet, so I would suggest you get to fixing your mistakes."

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"You continue to speak of my so-called mistakes, yet do you ever take a moment to ponder what I have done right? I'll assume that given your existence in realms beyond those of mortals you are familliar with the story of Molakar." Said the former God-king, willing to offer some counter-points to how much his actions might have been wrong.


"Perhaps I do, but continue." Simply replied the ghostly old man.


"Molakar was a tyrant, easily amongst the worst I have ever deposed. And I have indeed deposed several over my conquest of Za'ak. I know that you were implying that, in many ways, I was a tyrant but the tale of Molakar is one which shows how such description of my rule is completely wrong. Molakar and his wife, Suloro reigned over the northern lands for over six decades. According to the story, Molakar was nothing but a bandit and wanton murderer. Molakar met Sulor when, again according to the story, he tried to murder her in her sleep. She then proceeded to gouge out his eye and bite off three of his fingers. After a long furious battle, the two apparently seemingly fell in love." Kharag then laughed at the last part of his story. "Only on a world like our could love come from such wanton violence. In any case, Molakar and Sulor soon began unifying roving mauraders, which then began conquering all in their path."


"I can indeed begin to see some parallels but also the differences." Ghakarizi added, nodding before letting Kharag continue his story.


"The parallels end there, however. Molakar's army relied heavily upon slave labor and pillage, to an extent rare even on Za'ak. Where I opposed slavery, Molakar practiced it in mass and built his riches entirely on it, leaving the people starving and defenseless. The only ones granted any right and ressources had to join his army. Eventually, he even began kidnapping as many eggs as he could so he could ensure these children would be raised to be entirely loyal to him. They became violent, unhinged killers, comitting the worst atrocities. In addition to this, Molakar began purging any he deemed undesirable to his empire; certain groups, certains tribes or priests of certain gods. They were either killed or enslaved and then sent to battle as cannon fodder...living shields for his soldiers."


"Now I understand why you say he was such a despicable individual. A monster in every way. Molakar ruled through fear, that is true, but you must also understand that you too relied on fear from time to time. Just because you casted a lesser shadow than this monster does not automatically make you righteous." He looked at his interlocutor, with a gaze suggesting many things. One of them being accusation.


"Rrraahr! Do not mock me, old man! My empire had no slavery and no starvation. It's people were not destroyed, all would join my empire on their own terms. None would be expunged on the basis of the superiority of one group over another." Enraged, Kharag slammed his feet into the ground.


"But are you so sure of that, Kharag?" The old man said, letting out a long wheezing sigh, as if preparing to reveal some horrible secret.


"What do you mean?" He asked, suddenly having the creeping feeling that something dire had completely eluded him.


"Well yes, you wrote down the law. You made sure your empire was one where things would be as just as they could be and that was indeed commendable, even if your methods were more than questionnable. But as your empire grew in size, it quickly reached a size far beyond your sight. You had to rely on others to enforce your rule across distant lands. Because you led your armies from the front, it would be years before you returned to oversee the development of your empire. How do you know for sure that the actions taken in your name, during this time, were as you wanted them to be? How do you know your name and power wasn't abused for the gain of others?"

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As Kharag and his mentor continued walking across the memoryscape, the environment began to change, turning from the bloody battlefield to a bountiful city. Road of cobblestones were filled with chariots who sometime had a rather bumpy ride on the slightly uneven ground, where sharp quills of 'grass' erupted between the stones, scratching the surfaces of the wheels. Tightly packed buildings of stone and mud formed much of the city's architecture.


Still walking, Kharag headed for one of the city's heavily reinforced gate. Nostalgic, he touched it, before turning to his mentor and saying; "I built this wall. I remember it; I built it with my own hands."


"Yes and a fine wall it is, certainly a wonder for it's time. I know you intend to show me the great wonders our people have built. You intend to show me these immense fields, safe and bountiful. But these wonders are known to me and known to you. It is not what I wish for us to observe." Lifting his walking stick with his old decrepit arm, Ghakarizi slammed it into the ground. Around the two of them, the environment changed once again as years upon years passed, the stone and mud city growing in size, quadrupling in fact, becoming a booming metropolis of ever-taller stone structures and reinforced guard towers. "What you must see is this."


A group of armed soldiers were walking down the street, carrying swords and wearing chainmail armor, something which in this current time had grown increasingly common and had become the backbone of Kharag's troops at least in terms of protecting them from ennemy weapons.


"These are but soldiers on patrol. I do not see the issue with this." Commented Kharag, completely unfazed by the sight.


Kicking down the door to a decrepit building, the armored soldiers invaded the structure. The people in there immediately lept to action; survival was a concept very ingrained in the Za'akis. Despite being mostly unarmed, the people inside the building put a good fight, even taking down some of the soldiers.


"Why are they fighting?" Kharag asked. It was a mental projection, even if he wanted to break his own rule and obtain the information directly from the minds of those involved it was impossible. "I assume these are criminals, but I do not have the context. Not to mention it is against the law for soldiers and guards to invade a residence without stating their purpose. This is naught but mindless bloodshed."


"These soldiers are under the orders of your former regent. You see, these poor people are the downtrotten, the under caste of society. These in particular have formed a group in order to stop the shipment of drugs to the palaces of your generals and ministers.  In turn, those in power have sent these soldiers to eliminate the troublemakers."


"WHAT?! But that is not how things are done! Traitors! Scum! I shall destroy them and smite them off the face of this wo-" And then Kharag was promptly silence by receiving a face full of a walking stick.


"Calm your anger, it is pointless. These people have long been reduced to dust. What you see here is but one of countless examples. As you sat on your thrones making decrees or riding into battle, you merely offered words and laws. Laws which were carried over by your subordinates. You were so certain of how absolute your rule was that not once did you ever consider actually looking by yourself and see HOW these laws were applied and if they were applied correctly. You were such a naive arrogant fool you never once thought that someone might actually lie to you! Why? Because they knew your foolish, stubborn pride meant that you'd never dare pry into their minds. Does that mean you SHOULD have pried in their minds? Of course not. But you never second-guessed yourself, you never took the time to observe the result of your actions! AND THAT IS WHY I AM VERY DISSAPOINTED IN YOU!"

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"A lie! This is nothing but a lie! Trickery! Sorcery! This cannot possibly be right! It has to be nothing more than some carefully constructed lie. It is absolute madness. There's no way they would disobey me and always scheme against me and my rules in my back! I...I...I AM ABSOLUTE! I am..I..." Kharag collapsed to his knees as everything around him raced, becoming increasingly chaotic, a mass of images of countless atrocities done under his rule. Atrocity after atrocity.


"No, this all cannot be possible!" He shouted, trying to grab the chains of enslaved Za'akis being led by soldiers wearing his colors. Of course they didn't exist, so his hands merely passed through them. "This cannot be true!"


"And yet it is and you know it is true. Your rule did unify Za'ak in ways never done before, but there were also consequences. An empire this large can only breed corruption. Do not make the mistake of assuming our kind to be any more righteous than other beings. We are mortal, we are faillible. Your failling is that you never once walked amongst your kind to see what your actions wrought and what others did to enforce your words. You demanded them to use force, to enforce your power and they did, thus making you the kind of tyrant you once loved so much to despise. As your empire grew, you found yourself more and more confused, unsure at how to enforce cohesion across such large groups. You had to think less and less about the individuals and more in broad terms." Said Ghakarizi, slowly walking toward the collapsed Kharag. Now the old sage was carrying an egg.


"What is this...?" The collapsed former god-king said, looking at the egg. "Why? Why an egg?"


"Tell me, what is the value of a single life? In the grand scheme of things. If you are so adamant in being absolutely right at everything and that the progress of our people and their unification must be done at any cost then tell me; the egg I hold will hatch one day into a great warrior who will be skilled enough to kill you. Permanently. Do you kill him now or not? Remember, you said yourself our people's progress and unity, under your wise guidance, is sacrosaint. Now what do you honor." He placed the egg on the ground, leaving it defenseless.


"Why would I kill an unborn child? That is a disgusting, dishonorable act of murder and cruelty! I am not a blind killer!" Kharag shouted, disgusted his mentor would even dare bring that up.


"Remember, he will defeat you. Now choose; your belief in honor and greatness or the unity of our people you believe to be so dependant on your very existence. You cannot choose both. Now make your choice!"


"What kind of sick man have you become, Ghakarizi? You ask me to choose between my beliefs and honor and my mission! YOU were the one who raised me, taught me everything I know and now you come back from the dead to admonish me?! What insane game is this! I am Kharag, god-king of the Za'akis. The scourge. The immortal! I have my mission, a mission you taught me everything about!" He shouted back, angered by this turn of event.


"I NEVER TAUGHT YOU TO BECOME AN ARROGANT, DETACHED GOD! I said you were to be the bridge the mortal and spiritual world and be the safekeeper of our race in an age beyond the one of gods. YOU and ONLY YOU decided the methods at which you would take on this task! I understand that the route of peace was never open to our kind but nowhere was it said you had to do it this way!" The old man raised his voice, which now echoed across the mindscape like a booming thunder.


"You are wrong, old man. You are a fool to ever doubt my greatness!" Kharag clenched his fists and assumed a battle stance.


"You wish to fight me? You know you will lose, don't you? I can read you. To me you are as still as the mountains. I can sense your every moves. You-" The old sage didn't even get to finish his sentence as Kharag lept at him, attempting to punch his head off. Calling upon his own psionic powers, Ghakarizi yelled, creating a shockwave which repelled Kharag's fist. "You finally did it, didn't you. You've raised your hand on me in anger. How ungrateful."

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Angered, Kharag unleashed a barrage of punches at his deceased mentor who dodged them by leaping above them, landing on Kharag's cranial ridge, balancing himself on them. Even more angered by this, he attempted to throw his mentor off his head but the old man had already jumped out of the way. He replied with a sweep of his cane at his protégé's legs but Kharag had already seen that trick countless times. Moving out of the way he countered with a thrust at Ghakarizi's face but stopped mere inches aways.


"Wait. How is this even possible. Everything else inside this mental image is intangible, how can you and I be touching each others. And how did you use your own powers against me when mine have no grip on these ephemeral minds? Furthermore, you are a ghost, you have no body nor life force to call upon." He relaxed and removed his hand from so close to his mentor's face. "You're cheating, aren't you? Reshaping the rules of this mental world as you see fit. You old rogue. How dare you! You've been playing me all this time, haven't you? Then does that mean the visions weren't true?"


"No what I've shown you is real. That said yes, I have been 'playing you' ever since I entered your mind." The old man chuckled and grinned, showing his old yellowed blunted teeth. "Are you so foolish to believe I could get any lesson through that thick skull of your without having to resort to trickery? It's the only way to teach you anything. Well either that or brute strength but as you know I am the ghost of an old man. Furthermore, you needed that anger; you needed to vent. I know you well, anger and passion are very strong within you. I admitted my failures as your mentor and you were angry at me, so I've let you unleash your anger. Better for it to be inside a world which does not exist than taken out on innocents." Slowly the old man turned his back to Kharag and began walking away. Of course Kharag wasn't going to take just that as an answer so he ran to catch up to the old man, who was already starting to vanish down memory lane.


"But what now? What was the meaning of all this?! Why do you have to be so cryptic?" He asked, hoping this time he would get some proper answers.


"To be perfectly honest, Kharag, I felt we had unfinished business. As for the meaning of this lesson, it is something for the both of us to ponder. I once made the mistake of assuming my actions were right. We've both made mistakes but we've been given a chance to somewhat repair them. Especially you. I came here to tell you to undo your mistakes and understand them. Then I decided to let you unleash your anger because you needed to. There is nothing wrong in feeling anger when told we have done something wrong. Often, we take our anger on others because we are so full of shame about ourselves."


"I do not feel shame, old man. You taught me that, do you not remember. I am to be justified in my actions and see them through." Kharag replied, disgusted by the very idea that he'd feel something so weak and crippling as shame. Only weak fools who doubted themselves felt shame.


"Well no matter, your life is long enough for you to maybe one day understand..."


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