In The Midst of Black Seas
Borne to Raise Hell
Kashaph is tall for a human, standing 6 feet and three inches. His hair is coarse and dark, falling to his shoulders.
His skin is of a darker shade, tracing his lineage to the denizens of the desert to the west.
- Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
- “Power is life. And life is worth living.” Any opportunity for advancement in career, combat prowess, or reputation; Kashaph will take it. He hopes one day to be as helpful to the community as his father.
- Although he is curious about his ancestry among the desert folk, which differs much from his fellow towns people, he sees himself as a citizen of Dirganis before anywhere else.
- The gods of Man are interesting, but the monstrous gods and the Arch-Devils are enthralling! It’s odd that people are put off by these “evil” Gods and Devils, they’re just doing their jobs.
- Life is beautiful, but so is death. Nature is wonderful, but not more wonderful than a walk in a cemetery, or the loud bustling of a market. Beauty is everywhere, find it where you wish to find it.
Story of a Mother’s Son
In the seemingly lifeless wastes of The Sands of Illestrium, a cry is heard floating over the dunes. This small cry, from a small campfire, in front of a smaller tomb is followed by laughter and rejoicing. The ritual had worked, the child had survived.
The mother, Fawza, is still. Her eyes are white and her cheeks glisten with the tears shed moments ago.
The bloodstained rags are replaced and the chord is cut. The midwife wraps the child in furs and hands him to his Father, Beddik.
“Was it worth it, Fawza?” Beddik asks the mother’s body, “What will you endure for your gift?”
Months ago, when Fawza came to the nurses and healers in the town of Bathua, they gave her stern looks and insults. “You’re not welcome here, whore!” They pelted her with insults most vile as she stood her ground and refused to exit the small temple.
When the calls of “Seducer!” and “Harlot!” had faded, Fawza cleared her throat. “I come here not for myself. My own magics can see to those wounds. I come, instead, for my child.” At that, she rubbed her navel and looked calmly at the priests and healers. “And if you are quite complete in your judgments, my child needs attendance to.”
With the poise and unrefined nobility of a woman of her profession, she sat atop an empty seat and waited for a reply from the tongue tied clergy. They circled and huddled about the alter like sparrows, chirping annoyingly. Quietly, they gossiped and debated, away from the seemingly uncaring ears of the Whore within their temple. After much deliberation, a resolution had been reached. They would ascertain the health and sex of the child, then it’s matron would remove herself from their holy place.
Moments later, the High priest had been called to examine the womb. Only his hands were so holy, that the Harlot’s touch would not defile him.
“It is a boy, miss.” The priest looked firmly at the ceiling, seeming to focus on some spot in the sandstone. After some seconds had passed, still looking to the heavens, he spoke. “We have some unfortunate news of his condition. He is tainted. Scarred. We don’t suspect he’ll survive the birth.”
Fawza was stunned. Her perfect expression became maimed by bared teeth and curling lips, pushed back in anger.
“What will you do for him?!” She cried, grasping him by the throat. “What will you do for my Kashaph!?”
The temple echoed with her shouts, almost enough that she did not hear one of the lay sisters whisper, “How cute, she named the bastard. As if she would not bury it in the sand after it’s birth.”
After she had stormed out of the temple, forsaken by those who claimed pious indifference, she would seek help in the west. As her navel grew, and the time of birth grew closer with it, she never once thought to look for the father. The men she had offered services to would tell her to sod off. To bury the runt like the lay priestess suggested. But that would not be this child’s fate. Not this one. He would be given life, not an unmourned death and an unmarked grave, but LIFE. A life far from desolate sands and uncaring dunes.
Her magics, granted to her by fate, kept the two of them alive for a few more months. Enough time to get to a small town in the Kingdom Etaynnon, called Dirganis.
The town was filled with necromancers from around the world, her dark magics never received a second look. Surely, this is where she would find the power to save her son.
An older farmer, called Beddik, had given her lodging and food, only in exchange for a small amount of enchanting on the undead he controlled that toiled in the sun soaked dirt below. She was proficient in the work, and was happy to contribute to the community she thought could save her child. She grew to appreciate the presence of the farmer. He never asked for details of her life in the Eastern Sands, and never once asked about the father to her child. He only laughed and felt when the baby kicked, and held Fawza’s hair when the pregnancy gave her nausea. He acted as if the baby were of his own kin.
After searching for weeks for a power that would save her baby, she finally gave up hope. The child was due anytime in the next month. There were no more options. She had gotten complacent in this beautiful town, where the living and dead coexisted. She had been taken aback by the acceptance of the people, and by the wonderful life she found there.
When the old farmer had found her crying, with blood in her mouth and on the dirt in the front of their house, he demanded to take her to a healer.
“I’ve been before,” she replied, still vomiting the blood that seemed to fester with the clay and dirt road. “They tell me he will die. My sins have doomed him. My soul was tainted, and he will pay the price.”
Beddik looked at her sternly, but not with the eyes of a judging priest; nor with the curious eyes of the crowd who gathered around her as she bled from her mouth and eyes in the street. He stared at her with eyes of understanding and grief.
“Come into the house, miss. We’ll have to talk about this problem of ours.” And with that he picked her up with a grunt of pain and carried her into his home.
Once inside, he put a bowl under her chin for the vomit and a pot of water on the fire for tea.
“People in this town fancy me wise, Fawza. You’ve seen the way they come here asking for advice on crops, and love, and money. I am not wise, Fawza.” He looked at her as her eyes raised from the bowl filled with blood.
“The wisdom I have is not my own. It is an intelligence forged from flames and kept strong by eternity. Do you understand?” He pulled her up from the chair, past the fireplace with the water beginning to boil, past the room where she slept, and into his quarters.
“I have not judged nor inflicted any harm toward you in these last weeks. I only ask the same from you, miss.”
She nodded weakly, her face pale and her eyes red from the sanguine tears. Her lips’ ends turned up and she smiled at him. “Anything, Beddik. You’ve been better to me than any man I’ve met.”
He returned her nod and smile and replied, “That is a horrible pity, Fawza. That’s a damn shame.”
Beddik pulled a sack of silver coins from his belt and pushed his bed out of the way. Once the bed had been shifted, Fawza gasped as a large fireplace was revealed. It’s stones were black and the fire was a dark purple. In the flames, she saw the dancing fabric of space and time. It seemed as if eternity itself was in the flame.
Beddik began speaking with greater in a strange language Fawza had never heard. His voice was clear and there was no hint of elderly slur or stutter in his throat. He was acute and articulate in this speech. The fire roared in return, matching his precise verbal jabs with the fluidity only performed by flames.
This debate of crackling and sputtering continued until Beddik stopped abruptly. He then emptied the contents of the sack in his right hand into his left, then threw the leather pouch into the voracious fire pit.
He threw every silver coin into the fire, one by one, counting as he went.
“One, Two, Three…” He counted, all the way to Thirty.
At thirty silver pieces his hands were empty and the fire had consumed the leather pouch. The licking flames then turned to a deep red and roared, singing Fawza’s eyebrows even from across the room.
Beddik took the gust of heat from the fire with confidence, not blocking his face, nor his bare arms. He merely roared back to the fire in the acute jabbing language that seemed somehow to match the hissing of the flames.
Suddenly, the old man stepped back and pulled out two wooden chairs, both of fine oak. He placed the chairs facing one another, next to Fawza.
The fire bloomed suddenly and from it’s flowering mouth came a man, but not quite a man.
The dark gentleman, dressed in the robes of nobility, took off his hat and placed it upon the chain closest to him. His hair, when released from the hat, was long and black. Within the curls of his hair were two distinct horns.
“Sig-Balah, welcome once again to my humble abode.” Beddik bowed and removed his own hat and placed it upon the chair across from the devil.
“I care nothing for your pleasantries, diabolist. What do you seek to offer me, you have nothing left after our last encounter, I’m told.” The sneer of the devil put an odd hissing accent on his Common-speech.
“How powerful is your master, devil? I have need of a saving grace, but I have nothing to offer. What would it take to save an unborn child from it’s fate?”
“Fate?” The devil replied, “Fate is nothing to the likes of Si-Balah, emissary of Bel. This child, what afflicts it? Wounds? A dead host-mother?” His yellow eyes came to rest on Fawza.
“Ah, the taint of a sorceress? One who has made herself hosts for demons, even? Hah! Surely, you must be joking. There is nothing you have left to barter with, Beddik of Bel!” The devil pulled one of many small tokens from a chain about his neck. This one was stained on one side with blood, the other with a likeness of Beddik.
“I have your Soul already, Diabolist!” The devil’s laugh filled the room and caused the fire to spit embers on the floor.
“I will give you mine, then!” Fawza shouted, dropping her bowl of blood on the floor, staining the demon’s shoes.
“Hmm, the soul of a demon’s whore? One with a soul so tainted is no price for me. I will take you in the next few decades anyway.”
Fawza gathered her strength and pulled herself close to the devil.
“Take me sooner, then. Allow this baby to be born, then I am your lord’s thrall. From then until eternity.”
The devil smirked down at her, this audacious whore who prostrated herself before him as an equal. How far would she go?
He pushed back at her, his lap touching her enlarged navel. With a long red finger, he pointed down. “I want…this.” Then, his finger touched her midsection and the baby kicked violently in response, causing her to fall to her knees in pain.
She looked up to the tall red man, with his coarse black hair and his heart pulsing loudly enough to shake the room.
“Your son, when he dies, will join you and your friend here in Avernus. He shall be a personal assistant to Lord Bel. He will have a greater lot than your torture, for he he will be holding your whip.” The devil reached down to pet the woman;s navel once more and grabbed his hat from the oaken chair.
“So…Do we have a deal, friend?”
Beddik looked to Fawza as she nodded, crying.
“It shall be done then. Bring the child to be born here, this map will show you the way.” He handed the parchment from his breast pocket to Beddik and looked down once more to Fawza.
“My magic will delay the child’s birth. You will have 3 months to travel back to the desert from which you came to have the child. There will be help for you there. And Beddik? No more deals. You’re getting old and stupid.”
With that the demon was gone and the fire had burnt out.
The two gathered their things for the journey ahead, packing only rations and a small tent. They took the rest of the night to mourn for one another, and for the small child named Kashaph.
“Was it worth it, Fawza?” He asks the young woman’s body, “What will you endure for your gift?”
The whispering sands allowed her no reply. Once the afterbirth was completed by the midwife, Fawza’s corpse dissolved into dust that sank into the sand, reaching for Hell below.
“What is the name sir?” The midwife, asked him.
“Kashaph,” he said quietly, holding the dark haired boy in his arms.
“Kshaph bar-Beddik, then?”
“No,” Beddik replied. “He will be named for his mother. Kashaph Bar-Fawza.”
Since his tenth year-day, Kashaph has spent more and more time in the southern fields. Months of working in his father’s fields allowed him to purchase a basic maul, which was little more than an iron weight upon a stave. It was with this maul that he would make his way in the world. He would protect his town with this stave, he only needed more strength.
Sneaking out at night, he hoisted the weapon to a cart and pulled it to the militia training ground. The grounds were empty, and the only sounds were the slashing of zombies harvesting crops and the wisping winds rustling his cloak.
He found a practice dummy that was in good shape, the hay was still inside of it, only had a few rips from the blunted wooden swords of cadets.
Kashaph pulled his maul from the cart, and hoisted it above his head. His arms collapsed with the weight and the maul head came down on his unprotected skull. The darkness of comatose surrounded him.
In the darkness, there was no suspension of time, like with sleep. He was lucid, with a maul in his hand. Here, in this maddened dream, the maul was light and easy to move.
He saw himself as in a mirror. But in this image, his maul was swinging at speeds unimaginable. He was surrounded by fire, but the flames didn’t lick his flesh, nor his robes. He was powerful and great. Everything a young boy would desire from fate was promised to him.
And then, cold hit him and light flooded darkness.
“He’s alright, Beddik. Just a concussion.”
His eyes fluttered open and he found himself on a wooden table in a brick room. His robes were covered with dirt and his hands were gripped around something. The maul.
He saw his father above him, shaking his head.
“I was hoping to avoid this, doc. I didn’t think this would happen so soon.”
Kashaph had no idea what he was hearing them say. What were they talking about?
All of sudden, he noticed that which perplexed them. His hands were glowing. A dark energy pulsed in them.
“Well, son. There you have it.” Beddik said with a sigh. “Guess it’s time to show you some family tricks.”
It was Beddik, then, that showed his son how to control his hellish abilities, polishing him into a warlock.
He enlightened him to the ways of hellfite and power, but never once mention the status of either of their souls. To this day, the young boy has no knowledge of his mother, nor of his faith.