Chapter 10 (continued and still not done)
The drive to kill and eat was still there, strong and intense. But his mind was no longer watching helpless but had taken the reins again. He collected his thoughts. Even as he went out of control his consciousness had always been there. Watching. The power of his mind would not be denied. Not by hunger, not by thirst. He was better than that. He bared his teeth and growled in defiance, feeling his anger rise again. No! He mustn't. He calmed his feelings still snarling. The blood of the fallen still streaming into him bloating him with power. He realized that this was important. All the power he had at his finger tips it was corrupting him. He was paying the price for breaking natural laws. Usually when a mage channelled more energy than he could handle the overflow would go into his aura. The aura would start to grow around the magic user starting to shine in a bright light as it got saturated. Once the aura was full all excess power was vented into the environment in an way unique to the user. In Nashrin's case it was warm light and wind.
Blood worked differently. The energy flowing into him was still coloured by the living bodies it came from. It was more animal than pure force, so instead of going into the aura it went into the body. The shape it took as it increased was dictated by its nature. It was animal, but did not carry a mind, it was powerful but knew no limits, it was infused into bone, muscle, claw and here it grew. The body was a hard limit with no mechanism to vent its growing power. The aura was fed through the mind but the mind only got access to the bloods power after it had saturated the body. with the summoning circle in the kings' camp every man that Nashrin killed would become part of his increasing pool of power. The only chance he had to retain his humanity was to flee. But he could not do that yet. The enemy army was still to organized. The remaining officers could still bring the army to order or worse turn it into smaller fractions fighting for supremacy devastating Nashrin's realm.
There was still work to be done. But he could not rush it, while every cell in his body screamed at him to go out and feast on his enemies. They were so hungry. So thirsty. Nashrin invoked his shell-art bending every rule he knew about the limits of body shaping burning through enormous amounts of energy as he increased tripled his size grew an unnatural amount of muscle, thickening his bones to sustain the abomination he was turning into. While he retained some fine control over his hands he began etching transmutation circles into the metal plates of the war machine and into the rocky ground. With this he would save himself and his nation or seal its fate.
His body was still trying to catch up with Nashrin's unnatural wishes to overwhelm his mind. Growing bone spikes from joints, sprouting extra eyes all over his body desperately trying to wire them to a newly budding secondary brain to coordinate all the additional information they provided. Nashrin used this moments of clarity to cast a complex series of hand-seals activating the summoning circles around him, dissolving mineral and steel around him absorbing it into his deformed frame. The metal covered the bone spikes, his teeth and grew into countless wires enhancing his muscles and tendons. The minerals he had extracted from the rock reinforced his bones and formed armour plates under his skin. The power of the blood was reaching its limit. His monstrous frame constantly breaking apart knitting itself reinforcing limbs where needed, dissolving tissue that was not vital to its function caused him immense pain. Most of it drove the animal part of him nearly insane with desperation, but it also worked as a beacon for his mind. It was time for him to act.
He climbed the dead war machine, stood on top of it in his bubbling shifting body surveying the camps below him. He scanned as wide as his many eyes could see for the tell tale signs of officers. Once his main eyes had identified the patterns that would likely lead him to them he instructed his secondary brain to use the other eyes to look out for these patterns and make a map. As he stood there listening to his own terrifying howling breath he felt how the camp became known to him in increasing detail on the most instinctual level. He knew the camp now, like he knew his own body.
His attack was so fast that most witnesses had not enough time to process what had happened. One moment the soldiers where getting ready for one of many boring nights during a siege. Then all of a sudden a fire broke out in the Kings' camp. While everyone was still trying to find out what had happened there a horrible shrieking noise had come from the war-machine. It had screamed an inhuman scream before the captured soul within it seemed to explode. Everyone within a few hundred meters of it became overwhelmed by the presence of another human inside their very souls. Infected by another man's memories, hopes, regrets and worst of all the unimaginable pain that was caused to a soul when it was burned. Many of the people who stood within the radius of the explosion became tainted by the strange presence for the rest of their lives. They banded together driven by a strange impulse to stay in the realm of Nirza and protect it establishing their own village far away from all the others.
Once the explosion was over a horrible creature appeared on top of the war machine. While every description of the monster differed from every other they all had in common that the monster was the most vile thing that had ever walked the earth. It was said that those who stood close enough to see it clearly went mad from the sight. The thing paused for a moment before descending into the camp screaming. It burst through the camp killing the officers. All the colonels, all the majors, nearly all captains and more then half of the lieutenants where shred into pieces. All the attacks where so fast that who ever was witness to them only saw the people explode into bloodied chunks of flesh before their eyes, glimpsing for a brief moment the screaming fury that did it. A picture that would etch itself into their nightmares haunting them even after they had been reborn to a new body.
The mercenary camp was last. As it was the custom in those parts the soldiers for hire did not camp out with the rest of the army, instead they had their tents in their own little encampment enclosed by palisades. The monster rushed inside stopping as some people swear to turn around and close the doors to the camp first before continuing on its rampage. After that it was only the noise of battle, the chaos of combat magic and then finally only screams and fire. About fifteen minutes later most of the noises died down. Only the crackling of fire could be heard as well as the thin, shrill shriek that could not possibly be human. The soldiers outside waited watching in horror. Nothing happened for a while apart from the wail slowly dying away, which encouraged the most courageous veterans to move forward to investigate what was happening. When they had broken open the front gate the wail had become a whimper. Inside there was no sign of the monster only what carnage it had left. Not one body was left in one piece. Everyone had been ripped apart, many had been partially been eaten. Only when the search party had reached the back of the camp did they find the source of the inhuman voice. Behind the last tent was the only survivor of the attack. The bones in his lower arms and legs had been broken so that they jutted out of his skin like splinters, these splinters had then been driven into the palisade fixing him on the wall.
Nashrin was done. He had killed all the officers he could find. He had abused his power to the point where he had almost killed himself as his magic started eating away on his own soul as the blood ran out. His consciousness had remained on top of the animal directing it where it was needed, letting it do the dirty work. What happened in the mercenary camp was too much for him though. They had put up proper resistance. When he had arrived most of them were ready for combat alarmed by the chaos outside of their camp. The creature body was fast though so he still arrived fast enough to surprise and overwhelm them. He told the animal that it was important that they all died. That a horrible example had to be made. The animal had rejoiced, driven into a frenzy by the attacks of the mercenaries, elated by the sudden challenge posed to its significant powers. Only a couple of minutes later Nashrin could not watch what was happening any more. He closed his eyes to the things the beast was doing, leaving it with one last command. 'Leave someone alive to bear witness to what you have done.' The creature driven by its unquenchable lusts and its burning pride was delighted to comply.
While his eyes remained averted his ears continued to hear, even that was almost for Nashrin to bear, especially with the feeling of triumph burning through his body. It was only after the sound of battle had died down that he chose to see the world again. He stood in the middle of the camp dyed red in blood, decorated with the remains of his enemies chuckling softly. Now it was time to shed the beast, the last hardest step. He ran, vaulting over the palisades into the woods outside the enemies camp. The sights and smells of the forest woke old memories of peaceful times where nothing like this seemed even remotely possible. The scents around him and the memories soothed the beast within him, for now filled with his enemies blood, awash with more power than it could consume it calmed. While his body kept blossoming into ever larger more unnatural forms, Nashrin envisioned his old body. He remembered how he once had been an ordinary man. All the meditations at the Order of Reason where they were taught how to map out their bodies in their minds building an inner map of their flesh so that when they were wounded in battle they could use their magic to mend it with speed and precision came back to him guiding him to his original form.
The animal in him was still exploring the many possibilities it could grow that it did not notice Nashrin Nirza as he once was appearing inside its bulbous core. It only knew that something was amiss when it felt a pair of hands that it did not control moving within its very flesh. For a short moment the animal knew fear. Then it burst apart as Prince Nirza shed his animal self emerging blood soaked as a new man. Careful not to fall for the trap of the flesh again he used the blood of his still writhing former body to paint sigils of power on his skin giving him enough power to speed back to his own fortress, scaling its walls in three powerful bounds, collapsing at the feet of his most trusted general. Before he lost consciousness he whispered to him 'They blasphemed against nature and the realm rose against them. . ."
A day passed before Nashrin regained consciousness. He woke up in his bed warm comfortable bed, the sun shining through the open windows, the curtains bobbing lazily bobbing in the fresh crisp air. For a moment Nashrin believed that had had just had a nightmare. The siege, the battle, all that was just a bad dream He was back home, in his bed. There were only the every day noises coming in from the out side while the sky-shell was bright blue over a a little herd of tiny fluffy clouds slowly passing by. Yet if there was no war, why should he be at home and not in the academy of the Order. Nashrin lifted his hand and watched it for a while. He turned it around, moved its fingers. he could not help but feel that this hand was not quite right, there was something foreign about it. Then there was the hunger. At first he just thought that he had just woken up with a big appetite. As he moved he felt that his body was exhausted like after days of physical exhaustion way past the point of abuse. A treatment that the Order imposed on its students regularly to harden them, to get them to know their limits. His hunger ran deeper than that though, he was not being hungry, he was hunger. Every fibre in his body, every bone was starving for nourishment it was craving the blood with a fierce intensity. Filled with a sudden terror, he threw back his sheets springing up to his feet.
He nearly stumbled over his own feet his body was wrong in many subtle ways. It looked like his body but when he moved around he knew that it wasn't. Its size was wrong, the skin was a bit to taut, the colours of the world around him slightly to vivid, the organs inside of him, he felt them, he felt them being slightly out of place. With fear turning his alien insides into knots he slowly walked towards a window staggering slightly as if drunk. Despite resting his hands on the window sill he almost collapsed onto the ground when he looked outside. There before the city walls was the camp of an invading army, in its midst stood the ruin a an unspeakable war machine surrounded by large pyres in which bodies were burned, the merciful wind blowing the smell of charred human flesh away from his capital. He remembered all that had happened, all that he had done. At this moment he knew that this new strange hunger would now haunt him forever, reminding him of his bestial nature, tempting him where ever he went. He steadied himself what ever he had done was done. There was no time for regrets, not yet. He still had a nation to save he would have enough time to contemplate his fate afterwards.
He had to use his shell-art on his body to make it comply. He had not enough time to learn to use this strange copy of himself, so he forced it along with magic and willpower. Once dressed he called in his generals, surrounded himself with his personal bodyguard in all their splendour and they rode out of the castle proud and unbroken into the pathetic mess that was left of his would be conquerors' armies. He rode in silence through the camp, circling his capital city once attracting the attention of the enemy soldiers, many who out of a lack of direction simply followed him, while others simply went with the crowed. So when he had closed the circle he was followed by a giant herd of confused soldiers. Before turning towards them he cast a series of hand seals which drew power out of the earth sending it along the circle he had trodden out with his retinue. As he spoke to the army his words resonated through the ground so that his words appeared to swell up from the very earth on which they all stood.
"I am Prince Nashrin Nirza, lord of the Principality of Nirza. I have come here before you so that you may know the mercy of this land. You came here as aggressors, you invaded a peaceful country to steal its resources, to eat its food and worst of all to kill its innocent citizens. On your way here towards our proud capital you killed, you pillaged, you raped and then you had the audacity to burn my fathers soul, the soul of a just and noble man to power that monstrosity over there." he paused for a moment pointing towards the dead war machine. Most soldiers in front of him simply watched their feet, only a few actually glanced at the horrid machine quickly averting their gaze. "You came here. You insulted me and my people and you promised us nothing but death. Think you, you deserve anything but death yourselves?" again he paused he let his gaze wander over the crowd. No one dared to look him in the eye.
"You may think that you deserve to die. Some of you without the shadow of a doubt deserve a swift death hoping that you will do better in your next life. But the time of death has passed. You have paid the price for your transgression. Two nights ago the realm itself rose in rebellion against your inhuman ways. In its wisdom nature decided to punish those most guilty." Nashrin felt ashamed for his hubris but he had to do it, it was part of his greater plan which would hopefully bring lasting piece, he would pay his dues later. "Most of you did not want to be here in the first place. You have homes to return to, in which your families wait for you. You have your trade trade that you should follow. Instead of living in peace you were forced by your lords to come here. Many of you did not want to kill, yet once on the field of battle what choice do you have, other may have given in the the frenzied blood-lust of war and given in to unnatural appetites." again he felt a pang of guilt. "But this is over now. Your kings lay dead, your generals lay dead, your officers lay dead, all the mercenaries who made death into their trade lay dead but one who was chosen by the realm to bear witness to the price you have to pay if you assault the Principality of Nirza. For this realm is peaceful by choice. Not because for a lack of power. Today I have come to help you bury your dead, to pay my respects to them for now they are enemies no more but simply lost souls in search of a new body and I have come to offer you peace. Lay down your weapons, help us repair the damage you have wrought and then you may go home. Not as a beaten army but as guests coming home from a visit at a friends place. We will shall feed you, we shall tend to your wounded."
"It is my hope that instead with blood on your hands you will leave with peace in your hearts. You will know that the Principality of Nirza can be as great a friend as it can be a scourge to its enemies. Those who still wish for the glory of the battlefield, you can of course continue your campaign if you are willing to pay the price. To everyone else I extend my hand in friendship." he made a grand gesture towards the enemy army which served a both as a symbol of peace as well as to dispel the magic that was amplifying his voice. Before the last echoes of his speech had died down he had dismounted and was now walking towards the burnt out camp of the invader kings to pretend that he was paying his respects to these monsters.