The boy hesitantly enters his home, grimacing as the door creaks. He has waited long enough, the sun has long since set and a powerful chill was permeating the air, making his body shiver and his lungs ache. The choice of facing his father or facing the cold was a difficult one but ultimately, he decided the wrath of his patriarch was worth it to be warm.
Cautiously he stepped inside, his breath held in fearful anticipation. He sighed in relief when he didn’t immediately hear his father’s yelling. Perhaps he had gone to the tavern? His heart sank and he heard the heavy boot steps behind him.
His father looked down upon him, his eyes slightly glassy and a derisive smirk on his face. The son could clearly see the half empty whisky bottle in his left hand.
“I don’t see any food boy,” slurred the father, “I sent you out with coin for bread and meat hours ago!”
Tears welled in the son’s eyes, as he knew what was coming next, “Father, I’m sorry. The Devrin brothers…they stole it…they were too big…”
“You let them rob you again?!” the man spat on the ground in disdain, “you’re a disgrace boy, I’m ashamed to call you my son!”
“Quiet!” he slapped the child across the face, knocking him to the ground.
The boy looked up his father pleadingly, tears flowing freely down his face. This vision of weakness only seemed to incite the drunken man to further violence. He kicked the boy in the stomach, making him cry out in pain, before rasing the whisky bottle high, as if to strike a killing blow.
The child cried out in terror, as much at the madness in his father’s eyes as the sight of the deadly weapon ready to strike.
Suddenly a massive grey fist grabbed the hand holding the bottle and squeezed, crushing both. He cried out in agony before a second grey fist punched him through a wall. The boy looked up at a monstrosity; a hulking grey giant with eyes burning with rage.
“Weak pathetic boy!” it growled, before lunging at the child.
Brucien awoke with a scream, and for the briefest moment thought he was home and safe in his own bed. A bug crawling through his hair brought him back to reality. He sat up with a groan, shaking the pine needles from his hair and rubbing his aching back. The man lay on a pile of leaves, in the middle of a dense forest, with naught but a torn pair of deer skin pants for protection from the elements.
It had been four days since his entire life had been turned upside down. Once he had been a lonely alchemist, running a potion store in the town of Brynn. He couldn’t say he was content with his life, but it was a vast step higher than his current situation.
Fredrick, his apprentice and only friend had betrayed him. The man was part of a cult, and with his unholy companions had turned Brucien Bannerson into something monstrous. A being of chaos and unbridled rage known as the Behemoth.
And thus he found himself alone in some nameless woods, on the run from Brynn’s militia, a chaos worshipping cult and even a mighty storm dragon. He couldn’t help but feel alone, and yet, in reality he wasn’t.
How can you let your memories haunt you so? Boomed a derisive voice in the back of his mind. Dwelling on weakness only continues to keep you weak.
The Behemoth was always with him. In a way it was him; a lifetime of suppressed anger and hate given form. Whenever he grew angry, when the wall between Bruce and Behemoth was at its weakest, the beast would take over.
He ignored the voice and scanned his surroundings, looking for something to eat. His experience as an alchemist provided him with skills in recognising all kinds of edible plants. Not only that, but certain combinations of flora could provide special benefits, such as warding off cold, or being able to go days without eating. Without such knowledge he doubted he could have survived even a day in the wild.
After grinding some myrtwort leaf together with jayberries to stave off the elements, he continued his journey towards the rising sun. There was no real reason for the direction he chose, other than the fact it was easy to stay on coarse and would eventually lead him out of the forest. After leaving the woods he hoped to find some sort of mystic or wizard that could help rid him of the Behemoth.
This journey would go so much faster if you just let me out, release me Bannerson.
“You’ve done enough harm you beast, I’m never letting you out again,” stated Bruce resolutely.
“Such strength, but you’re still the weakling child I always knew,” came an eerily familiar voice from behind him.
Bruce spun around to find himself face to face with a man he hadn’t seen in ten years.
He gasped, “Father.”
Fredrick Jonas gazed at the clouds above, wondering if today would be the day he and his comrades would find Bruce. Days ago they had gone off the beaten path, wandering seemingly blindly into untamed forest.
As ever, they followed the direction of their leader, Emil, a mad eyed man who Fredrick feared to cross. Every few hours Emil would cast the stones and knuckles upon the ground, before leading them onwards. Whether or not he was truly communicating with the chaos god, Raketh Marr, or he was mad no-one could say. The rest of the Vanguard followed him fanatically though, and thus Fredrick held his tongue.
A fellow cultist, a woman named Nicolette, brought her horse up alongside Fredrick, “You knew the Chaos Beast’s mortal vessel before his ascendance. Where do you think he’s heading?”
Nicolette was a beautiful woman, save for the severe burns down the entire left half of her body. She often kept to herself, and so Fredrick was momentarily surprised when she approached him.
“To be honest I don’t really know,” he replied truthfully, “he never was one to speak about himself. I think his family live somewhere near here, but I don’t believe there is much love left amongst them,”
“Hmmm, interesting,” replied Nicola, carefully stroking her red hair to ensure it covered her burnt face, “do you recall where they dwell?”
“A town called Alshire I believe, but as I already said I don’t see Bruce going to them,”
“Of course friend, of course,” she smiled, and the conversation ended.
They continued to ride in silence, with Fredrick feeling slightly uneasy.
The man that stood before Brucien was clearly his father. He looked exactly as he had when last they parted, ten years ago. The man stood below a tall pine tree, as if he had been there all along, but Brucien was certain no-one had been there a moment ago.
“Look at you, nearly naked and wandering the woods like an elf,” sneered his father.
“W-what are you doing here?” Bruce stammered.
“You’re too pathetic to even embrace the raw power within you,” his father spat, ignoring his son’s question, “you’re no son of mine, coward,”
“I…I…please, just stop…” It was as if he was a child again; all rational thought deteriorated. He just wanted to curl up and cry.
“That’s it, whimper, just like your mother did!”
At the mere mention of him hurting his mother, all despair turned to a burning anger. When he realised, it was already too late.
I’ll smash this gnat! Howled the Behemoth in his head, as the beast took control of his form.
Within seconds his body began to transform; small, nearly non existent muscles suddenly tripled in size, his pale skin turned grey and strong as steel and he grew to ten feet tall. The Behemoth roared at Bryan Bannerson, but the man seemed unfazed.
“You’re just as pathetic!” mocked Banner, “The raw, unrelenting avatar of chaos shackled to a mewling worm,”
“Rrrraaaaggghhh! Be quiet!” screamed the Behemoth as he charged the man.
Instead of crushing Bruce’s sire to a pulp though, he passed right through the man and shattered the tree behind him.
Banner laughed, “I knew nothing spawned from my son could amount to anything,”
The Behemoth bellowed in rage once more and attempted to backhand the man, but he was suddenly twelve feet away, still laughing.
He’s not real! Cried Bruce in the beast’s mind. He’s an illusion…or hallucination, or…
The Chaos Beast leapt for the insolent human but once again found him out of reach. In blind fury he charged the man, who always remained too far away to catch. Despite Bruce’s calls for reason, the Behemoth refused to listen. The apparition was leading them somewhere, like a carrot on a string leading a donkey.
But where were they headed?