His heart thumped like a thunderclap.
Am I alive? This was Alexx Junder’s first thought. His eyes were sealed tight, and ears rang from indistinct noises. Recollecting for answers only produced shattered memories. Images of voyaging on the Night Reaver, acquiring maps in a bottle from an old man, and entering a dark hallway to an ancient maze. Visions followed of strange creatures, his first mate Ron, a man released from a glowing cage, red symbols, a black portal, and then nothing. Alexx wished he knew how long it’d been since he passed out. Noises- briefly muffled- were coming in clearer. From all around, fire cracked from fresh wood, animals screeched, wings flapped, and people screamed in terror. He was waking up, yet kept his eyes shut. No pleasant sounds filled his ears, and perhaps if he played dead for a little while longer, whatever was out there would pass.
There was no good outcome he could imagine, especially in light of his recent endeavors. The plunge into the Labyrinth was his last lead on the Moon’s Heart. Not even a cataclysmic event like unleashing a horde of evil monsters onto Rediew really mattered now.
The pirate captain felt all washed up.
After everything, I've got nothing. Nothing... Nine years, and nothing to show for it. I s’ppose I'll just lay here until this chaos dies down. And then… screw it all.
Though afraid to open his eyes, curiosity urged him to find out where he was and how close to death he was.
“I know that you have awakened. Rise, young sea thief, your attention is requested.”
He stopped thinking about anything. Alexx recognized that archaic, deep voice as Senkazital, the one from the cage. He quickly understood the circumstances entirety, he was already dead.
Said Senkazital with a subtle deep pitch, “I thought for a moment you had given up on living. Hearken to me now, vessel; your master needs you.”
Master? Alexx attempted to open his eyes. Surprisingly, it took no effort, and he gazed at the fire and smoke billowing from all directions. A black, unnatural plume transformed the sky. Demonic creatures circled under the clouds, shrilling and scouring for food. Senkazital sat upon a crude, throne-like pile of stones inches from the edge of a giant hole sitting behind him. His long hair was blood red, and skin darkened to a grayish hue. He only wore a pair of ragged britches, but his thin, weathered arms were spread wide in a gesture of welcome. An air of kingship was about him, from the tone of his voice to the aristocratic look in his eyes. He sat erect, back straight and head high.
Questions stirred in Alexx’s head for which he could find no reasonable answer. Was his crew still at the docks? Were they even alive? Where were all the people of Lanrete? How could Senkazital have caused so much destruction in such a short amount of time? What about now? Was he going to torture him, kill him? And where did Ron go? One question above all could not be silenced.
How did I get up here?
All of these thoughts disappeared as a new sensation was emerging. The feeling was returning to his body. Before, he could feel nothing and trying to move was pointless. Now, the cold embrace of stone and heat from the flames, gradually entered his senses. Feelings of pressure swarmed all over his body, altering into pain. Alexx glanced toward the ground and noticed blood -his blood- on the stones in a pool. With fear feeding his energy, he forced his head up to see his body covered in bite marks, claw gashes, exposed bone, and various other bruises and wounds from fallen rubble. The agony intensified, and his voice was failing him.
“Yes, you’re noticing your injured state. The Kai were without mercy on your body.” Alexx heard Senkazital nonchalantly say.
His breathing grew heavier, mind frantically going in circles. He wanted to scream, cover his injuries, hold the blood in, call for help, something, but it seemed the only realistic idea was a slow, asinine death. He tried lifting his arm, but it cracked. The torment was enough to push Alexx to cry out. He continued to groan as his arms wrapped around him. That failed to help, but it was all he could do, besides gasping for air.
“Worry not. You will live, seafarer,” the dark master said calmly, offering no immediate help, “Your body will regenerate in time. But for now you must pay attention, for I have important things for you to hear.”
Alexx gritted his teeth and groaned again, moving his head to look towards Senkazital. After all, he was the only hope for staying alive at the moment.
“I have chosen you to help me reclaim my kingdom, and conquer Rediew. Your spirit to live impresses me. I see much strength, ambition, and courage in you. Though I sense your heart is too conflicted with morals. I want to transform you into a mighty being filled with unimaginable power, capable of great destruction. A true legend among men. In return, you will help me become a god.”
“God?” Alexx replied faintly, rolling to his side and feeling a slight relief, “What do you mean ‘become a god’?”
“Ah! So you find interest in what I say. Even though your body is broken, your inner will surpasses your physical strength. How intriguing. Very well...”
Senkazital removed a ring from his index finger and let it fall in the pool of blood next to Alexx’s face.
“That ring is imbued with Energy, and upon wearing it, you shall recover. But it will not protect you from the Kai, and they will most likely seek to devour you.”
The pirate stared at the jewelry and remembered the old man holding them in his hands the night before.
“I can’t use Energy.” the pirate coughed.
“You need only put it on. The ring’s only purpose it to bestow healing powers unto the wearer.”
Alexx reached for the ring, wincing in pain. Once he worked his forefinger into it, an overwhelming force flowed through his body. A blue, wispy shroud enveloped his cuts and bruises, and any open tears tingled and appeared to fizzle. He was not sure how it was working, but he felt the pain lessen. His bones mended as they would naturally but faster.
“I find you to be a splendid vessel. I have no doubt that you have questions."
"Sure," Alexx replied, watching the Energy still moving around his limbs and stomach, "I don’t suppose you have a drink, do you?"
"Your thirst for alcohol will have to wait. There is work to be done. Do you know of me?"
"I can't say I'm familiar with your handiwork there, Senkazital. Still trying to figure out if I'm a fan, actually."
"When I last walked Rediew, there was ne'er an opponent who would stand against me. Not even the Amar, my former brethren, those heavenly children, would come near me. They