Part I of II
The Primeval Tragedy
There was once a world, perhaps a thousand years ago, that was beautiful. An age of groundbreaking innovation, humanity was limited only by their imagination. Dreams were but a precursor to reality. Technological prowess illuminated the era and they performed wonders. These wonders came to define what it meant to be human in the modern world. But, ironically, all these things were never made to last.
No one can be sure as to how it all came to an end. There are theories. Some say that it was a super plague, fast-spreading and immune to all vaccines. Others believe that nuclear war enveloped the globe, explaining the various fallout bunkers scattered all about the earth and total destruction of all major cities. The third dares to blame the alleged apocalypse on an asteroid that unexpectedly changed course for Earth. What is certain, however, is that their end was tragically inevitable.
The real tragedy was in the ignorance of how they lived. Despite the greatness of their civilization, they lacked a collective moral compass. That hubris was their undoing, for virtually nothing survived in their name. There were no real records of their triumphs or lessons learned in failures. The Primeval Tragedy serves as a cautionary tale for the arrogance of humanity.
A barbaric and feudal age, the new world suffered the consequences of the old. Ancient cities lay in ruins, consumed by nature or serving as the roaches’ playgrounds. Settled about bodies of water, survivors emerged from their bunkers and were segregated in base cities. The new age, in consequence, had been forged by conflict. Chaos bled the new settlements apart, as human nature does not change. The need to survive in the dawning world cursed by their ancestors proved violent and without discipline.
Some believed that nuclear fogs from a thousand years ago altered some individuals with magnificent abilities to control the elements. To most of the world, those uncanny and mysterious attributes were regarded as sorcery. Those granted with such abilities either blessed or cursed the lands with their powers, shaping the rising world. However, this magical phenomenon faded away over the centuries, leaving only a few with the sorcery of times gone by. What remained after was an era of steel, feudal law, and a drive for redemption.
In recent days, the sins of the old world had vanished, almost entirely forgotten and replaced by the recovering planet. Yet, there were some evils that remained dormant through the millennia, waiting for the perfect time to return. In the new world, stumbling forward in the hopes that humanity might yet flourish, a wicked force has risen again—a dark entity once buried at the fall of humanity so long ago.
Michael Miuriell, a man of great honor and power, was cursed with the memory of his people’s slaughter. To evoke the living nightmare was for him to go mad, as no man could ever stay the same afterward. He was of the minority that survived the sudden onslaught from the Demon Plague, a demonic army as true to the definition of evil as any other. The famed man of peace, cast off in the middle of the ocean, was broken.
He couldn’t remember how many days he had been stranded on the auxiliary boat in the open water. Famished, Michael peered far out across the ocean’s horizon for a sign of hope. From his homeland, he was a hero—a beacon of wisdom in a perilous world. In the boat, however, Michael was but a man with a staff and a frayed cloak.
Wearily, he remained on his back and considered the blue, empty sky above. Accompanied by the tranquil rocking, Michael had pitied that he could not appreciate the peace. He had no fresh food or water. His mouth was as dry as ever, compelling him to choke and cough. But, in the fury of an instant, the calm water erupted like a volcano from one side. Jolted into a sitting position, he slowly peeked over the side of his boat to face a vigorous dolphin with an awkward scar over its left eye.
“What do you want?” Michael uttered tiredly. “This boat is taken.”
The dolphin seemed to smile and splash off. Michael watched it go, overshadowed by an enormous ship heading in his direction. He had to rub his eyes to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. It glided onward, coming into view as a sight of mercy. The ship’s sails eased and began to luff, signaling that it would slow down enough to take a look at him. He waved for the vessel with his staff raised high in the air, expelling all of his energy to catch the vessel’s attention.
Michael tightened his hold on the staff as he waved it, praying for deliverance. Given to him by his exceptional sage teacher, Urik, his unassuming staff contained remarkable power. Known as the Staff of Truth, by legend, it was a mystical article that helped him hone his special skills. Virtually indestructible, the artifact was told to have certain faculties that connected the user’s mind to any event in time: past, present, and future. Michael had intended to master its techniques, something no one had ever been able to accomplish before him, including Urik. The staff was crafted intentionally to appear old and futile.
As fate would have it, the large vessel lowered a rescue boat right beside his own. Heaving himself into the fresh craft, the alert crew pulled him up portside with reeling machines. The flawless detail of the gorgeous auburn ship was stunning up close. Before he reached the crew on deck, a commanding voice ordered them to fetch dry clothes and ready a holding space for him in the cabin.
Their Christian dialect was familiar to him, for most of the West spoke the language for centuries. Men gathered to help him stand on his feeble feet. Others relieved him of his staff, but he didn’t fear them stealing it. Even in his weak state, he had the article tethered to his mind. He only wanted to thank the strangers for saving him, but no words came out.
Michael was able to distinguish the captain from the rest of the men as he ambled forth. Many called him the “Sea-Sentinel,” because of his great experience on the open water. He scrutinized Michael discriminately, “Do you speak the Christian dialect, son?”
“You from Ellium?” Michael answered with a question.
The captain rubbed his chin and insisted to his crew that he recognized him as a Pommelian from the West. Pommelians belonged to a bustling community well known by most travelers as a city that housed artifacts of the old world. A long series of questions were in order as to how and why he was stranded in the middle of the Great Pacifica without water or rations.
The captain beckoned his crew to tighten the sails and maintain course as Michael was escorted to a holding cabin. As for the ship, it would continue its route for the great kingdom of Tinaria, a sister kingdom of Ellium that dwelled across the sea. Michael leaned on the crew as they helped him walk to temporary salvation.
Michael was eating too well. Gorging his stomach with bread, fish, and water, he had no consideration for his company. Three guardsmen stood by the cabin door and nauseously watched him eat. Servants had just begun to offer him another piece of bread when the captain came through the door. After a briefing from the staff, Captain Marinaio approached him and began, “What is your name?”
“Michael,” he replied in-between breaths. “Michael Miuriell of Pommel. I trust you’ve heard of me?”
“No, and you will address me as ‘Sir Marinaio,’” the captain snipped in. “I am the commander of the Santa di Mare, the greatest ship in the world. If you were conceived just yesterday, you would have heard of it.”
“Then you must be Tinarian,” Michael countered when another man bearing a herald’s mark on his breastplate came into the room and shut the door behind him. His aged face was cleanly shaven and his hair was like black straw.
“So, you are Pommelian,” the man said while clasping his fingers at the waist, having overheard from outside.
“I am Michael—”
“You are speaking to Lancea Forra, the royal herald of Tinaria. We Tinarians have little patience for games, so do tell us the truth and nothing but. Our kingdom houses Antonis the Prophet, a man who could very easily see through your lies. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Michael replied, eyeing the second serving of bread, “but his powers are amateurish, at best, if you’ll forgive me.”
The Herald wasted no time in starting what seemed to be a firm interrogation, “Really? Okay, then, Pommelian. Let us see what sort of value you possess, besides a puffed-up arrogance for one stranded in an old dinghy.”
“Indeed, sir,” he said, shaking off the jaded spell. “It’s been a while since I’ve spoken with anyone. In fact, I couldn’t tell you how long I was stranded out there before your crew saved me.”
Lancea quickly followed, “What were you doing alone in the sea? How did you become stranded like that?”
Such an innocent question awoke torment. His heart ached and his stomach turned just thinking about how he would even begin to explain it. A demonic force from the darkness stripped Michael’s entire world from under him in a single night. Unable to convey it in words, his spirit broke down, compelling him to cry instead.
As a geyser needing to blow, Michael let loose and justifiably mourned for his family before them. Everyone inside the cabin awkwardly glanced at each other as he wept in his hands. Lancea was willing to wait just moments more. He was not known for his tolerance. The captain, conversely, had not seen a display of such sudden anguish in years. These were the sort of tears that told grim tales.
“What happened, man?” The captain asked mercifully.
In attempting to overcome his crying bout, Michael wiped his face with a tablecloth and started with breaks in his voice, “All of what I am about to tell you is true, so help me God. A demonic army of some kind enveloped Pommel and murdered everyone in it without warning—without meaning. I witnessed one of those things tear out my wife’s beating heart and leave her to die at its feet.
“When I could not save anyone else—when it appeared hopeless, I led others to escape along with my son. After that, I remember nothing. After we ran, I only remember blackness. I had dreamed that they killed everyone, including my son—my only child.”
Following a dead silence, the captain uttered, “Demons, you say?”
“I thought they had killed me too, but I awoke in that boat.” Michael held back persistent tears. “They plague my dreams! Those things were not of this earth. They were demons, whether you choose to believe me or not. I know what I saw. I know what killed my wife, my people—all those innocent—”
Dumbfounded by the stranger’s impossible account, Lancea shook his head in a daze and said, “You expect us to believe that yarn?”
“Perhaps, seasickness?” Captain Marinaio immediately interjected. “I’ve seen this before in boys early in the service.”
Hearing them, Michael could only laugh in disgust. Even he didn’t believe his eyes back in Pommel. A sane person would be crazed to believe such a story, but there was no softening it. Michael had to convince them all, for the sake of all those who were butchered. He would make them all believe that truth was deadlier than fiction.
Lifting his head to meet the Tinarians’ judging glares, Michael said gravely, “You had better take me seriously this day. Your kingdom may share the same fate because they will not stop at Pommel. They can do better than Pommel!”
“That’s enough there!” The herald flicked his wrist and walked towards the door to leave the sordid scene. In his abhorrence for the stranger’s outlandish responses to his questions, Lancea decided to return to his own cabin and let the captain deal with the insane Pommelian. Yet, when he was prepared to leave, his coin purse tore from his belt and jetted toward the center of the room.
As everyone in the cabin gawked at the breathtaking spectacle, a servant’s helping dish was next to float up into the air. Stunned by the impractical display, they all witnessed Lancea’s purse gently lay upon the floating dish as if a ghost had taken over. But Michael Miuriell was no ghost. Rather, he was telekinetic.
“I insist that you stay and listen to the rest,” Michael said calmly from his seat. “If your money is that important to you that you must attach it to your hip, perhaps you should heed my warnings with an open mind? It could be your head served on a silver platter instead.”
At last, they realized who they had taken aboard their ship. Michael’s abilities were known far and wide by many. His training under Urik of Oron had given him a sense of control over this great power. If left unchecked, he was at risk of causing catastrophic harm. Even he could not say how he attained his unexplainable talent.
Gaining their attention, Michael proceeded, “If seeing is believing, then this performance should be easy for you to take in. Witnessing a demon slaughter your family and friends may be a bit more than one can chew. I think it’s time that you come to terms with what I am trying to tell you.”
After an immediate change of opinion, Lancea led the captain out of the cabin and pushed him back into the corridor’s wall, hissing nervously, “What in the hell are we going to do? Do you know who that is? Do you know what this means?”
“Why would he lie?” The captain retorted with anxiety. “Unless you plan on making him angrier, we may have to accept his account of what happened!”
“And then what?” Lancea countered. “The king requests news of a trade deal, not him! He will never allow me to sail across the sea again if we entertain him with stories of demons!”
The captain peeked back into the cabin briefly before whispering, “That is the real Michael Miuriell in there. Surely, the king knows of his reputation. He would be more likely to hear his warnings directly.”
“You don’t have to face the king!” Lancea shouted. “Antonis would have foreseen this! Any prophet would have known that ‘demons’ were going to invade the earth! How ridiculous would you like me to look before him, Milo?”
Captain Marinaio moved in close enough so that their noses were practically touching and said, “That is not my concern. You are the Herald and that is your burden. Think about how ridiculous you’ll look if Miuriell’s story comes true for Tinaria and you did nothing to warn them!”
At last, Lancea was convinced. Sighing with a prolonged stare into the cabin, the Herald made his way back in and decided to hear the famous peacemaker of the West. His purse floated back towards him as he returned to the supernatural display, catching it in his right hand. Watching Michael guide the serving plate before himself without moving a muscle, Lancea clasped the purse to his belt and said, “Nice trick.”
Michael chewed into another piece of bread before saying with a full mouth, “You must understand. They don’t intend on stopping. This Demon Plague will destroy your kingdom as it did mine if your king does nothing. Accept my agonizing tale as an olive branch. I’m willing to help stop them if I can.”
When the captain joined everyone else inside, Lancea cleared his throat and swallowed his pride, saying with a heavy heart, “We Tinarians have heard of you, Miuriell, but our kingdom is already in great turmoil. Before we departed for the West, our queen suspiciously became ill. There is no doubt now that she had come down with a sickness no physician could identify.
“Because our king is in despair, and we don’t know if she’s recovered since, he will not accept your story ‘with an open mind,’ as you say. The best you can do is present your message. From there, you are on your own. Since you have proven to us that you are the real Miuriell, we shall tread softly. We are not doing this for your sake, mind you.”
“No, I am doing this for yours,” Michael said, having filled his stomach. “I don’t wish to see more people die.”
Lancea Forra groaned before hastily storming out of the cabin, “May God be with us all.”
Captain Marinaio ordered everyone but the guards to leave them. Michael remained in his seat and quietly reflected on his present state of circumstances. He shouldered a sacred responsibility to protect as many people as he could, having already sacrificed everything but his life thus far. He could hardly function as himself without his loving wife—and without his only son.
When the last man had shut the door behind him, the captain placed his hands behind his back and came in closer. He studied Michael’s eyes for the truth one more time before saying steadily, “I don’t like your story, gruesome and sorrowful as it lies, but I believe it. On the same token, there is one other thing you should consider. You never confirmed how you ended up in that boat. I don’t accept your ‘blackout’ account of it.”