Editor’s Note: This entry is part of a series exploring the history and lore of A Knight Adrift in greater detail.
Born from the shadows of humans, demons watched their oblivious counterparts from the gloom with envy. Empty, alone, and bound by the veil that separates void from earth, the shades whiled away their immeasurable time coveting the spark of humanity’s souls. And as humanity tamed the wilderness and built its cities, the demons’ resentment grew. Why should humans alone be allowed to enjoy land and sea and air? What cruel gods had doomed their kind to nothingness while humans basked in unearned freedom?
The shades longed to inhabit the darkness within each human’s soul, believing it their means of escaping imprisonment. But such a task was nearly impossible, for even the weakest human’s will selfishly repelled entrance to the soul. Frustrated by one failed attempt after another, demons resorted to the vulgar possession of beasts and wild things to wreak havoc on their enemy. Their souls twisted in shadow by demonic corruption, simple creatures became monstrous abominations, mindlessly fixated on the torment of errant humans.
At the dawn of the age of men, the first shadow cast into the void was consumed like any other by insatiable jealousy. But its ambition, greatest among the veil-bound, fueled a terrible purpose. Appalled by the pathetic desperation of its companions and unwilling to debase itself in such a manner, the First waited, observing humanity for centuries.
Moments of joy. Moments of sorrow. Moments of contempt and disgrace. The demon drank in the spectrum of human experience. With its knowledge grew its power. It tested the limits of the void and veil, and was convinced there was a way – a way to bend the humans’ will to its own. After thousands of years, the demon need only a suitable target for its experiment.
In the uncharted mountain forest of southern Valerius, a pious monk lived a life wholly devoid of human contact. Having judged his church lazy and profane, he abandoned it to worship the ancient deities in the method he saw most fit. For years, the bitter monk stubbornly eked out a meager existence. He forsook all bonds of fellowship in service of his faith. Huddled alone in his patchwork hut, his mind addled and body deprived, the monk sacrificed what game he need not eat to the fire, hoping to receive a sign of recognition from the gods he so revered.
One dark and suffocating night, a voice came from within the fire’s shadows. The demon whispered to the monk. Bird and beast would no longer suffice. To prove himself truly devoted and worthy of their favor, the gods demanded more satisfying sacrifices. It was the voice for which he had waited. The monk abandoned his mountain hovel and ranged far and wide, all the while foul murmurings in his ear. His knobby feet, weary with travel and toil, carried him from hamlet to hamlet on his gruesome quest.
As broken and sad as the old monk was, he was not without humanity. With each murder, his will was slowly devoured piece by piece, like a sun-spoiled corpse beset by vultures. Tears streaked down his dirty face, reflected in the sharp blade of his bloodied knife. And as the monk’s soul eroded, the demon filled the void within him. In nights as black as tar, the quiet whispers ever eased him softly to sleep with promises and hope. But each day hope evaporated as he awoke from ominous nightmares, twitching and screaming in terror.
Years passed and the exhausted ascetic turned away from the gods. Unwittingly bent to the demon’s will, his mind was clouded with turmoil. Murder after murder took its toll. His own reflection mocked him. Shadows beckoned him to blasphemy. There seemed to be no end to the gods’ appetite. With so much innocent blood spilt by his hand, the monk longed to be stopped. How had he not? Was his immunity the sick favor of which the voice had so often assured him?
Far from the mountain home and simple life he once loved, the monk sat alone in some dark alley. He realized in a fleeting moment of clarity that no amount of blood would ever be enough. Long suppressed by the demon’s will, guilt bubbled up and froze his heart. He looked at the knife in his hand, still red and slick from his latest victim. A dry sob shook his body. The monk said no prayer as he turned the knife and with both hands thrust it toward his own throat.
Suddenly rigid, his hands stopped the knife’s point a hair’s breadth from his skin. With eyes that smoldered like embers, the monk laughed with lips and tongue that were no longer his own. The demon assumed control of its victim. For in their lowest moments of broken will, humans are most susceptible to the dark influence of shadows.
The monk that was not himself laughed again and again. The hollow sound echoed off city walls. Rats scurried away into dank sewers, eager to flee the evil presence. The monk stood and assessed his own body. The damp air filled his lungs as he greedily sucked in ragged breath. The monk was no more.
Convinced of its supremacy, the demon reached out to the void and proclaimed victory. Eager to taste the freedom of Valerius, shadows throughout the void pledged themselves to the First and combined within the mortal host. Thus Tyrannus, the primordial demon, was willed from many into one and unleashed upon the world.