◈ Blade of Aal
“The Blackstar shall deliver us all to paradise. We stand guard against the darkness 'till the day we breathe our last.”
This mantra was the only ever-present constant in their lives, along with the unforgiving shifts and tides of the war waging across crimson sands.
But three years had passed since the Blackstar fell in the far west, and paradise was nowhere in sight. Everything the elders foretold never came to be, while the endless stream of monsters crawling out of the dark pits showed no signs of abating.
“Hear me. For I am the curved blade of Aal, the master who shall unleash his raging winds and sands.”
For only Hashashin could cut through the chaos, by faith alone he had overcome the gruesome training and the grief of returning from battles where countless of his comrades had fallen.
It was none other than Kayal Nesser, an outsider, who broke this vicious cycle.
A bastard of the royal family of Valencia, and next-in-line to lead the order as Qabal, “The One at the End”. It was Kayal who had long kept the fragments of chaos at bay with his comrades, but in the end, it was he who ran away. The elders, full of scorn and hate, preached:
“The Blackstar of Salvation has yet to descend, for there are those weak of faith. None but us, the souls who’ve endured through the tragedy of battle, can enter paradise. For Kayal has failed to wash away the blood of hypocrites.”
Forced once more to enter the blood-stained battlefield, Hashashin awaited salvation, yet doubts still remained.
“Why do the people of the war look upon it with disdain and call what the rest of the world knows as the Blackstar as the Redstar?”
Once planted, the seed of doubt in the back of his mind could not be uprooted and only grew.
Kayal’s desertion, the existence of monsters, the meaning of salvation, the Blackstar’s identity.
He questioned the truth behind the teachings and scripture of Aal, but his search for answers only led to more questions and festering doubt.
It eventually spurred him to leave his life behind and stow away on a boat.
Then a black energy – one whose red eyes glistened with glee and had been waiting by his side for so long – finally began to possess him.
Hear me. As the bush needs water to grow, and the flowers must be tended to before they wither, send your blessings of the holy sands before your servant dries into dust.
A lost soul cries out into the night sky. The sands of the hourglass run thin, as the soul found no answer to the Blackstar. With time running out, the souls fleeting life seems certain to end.
Let me overpower the certainty of death.
The prayer finishes. A weakened hand clutching to his haladie refuses to let go. His armor of faith is cracked, yet still protects him from the void that awaits his demise. Then a pure, divine voice taps his ear.
“Aal’s faithful servant. What causes you to cry out in a place like this?
Nourish yourself with my words, carry yourself back to the fortress and rest.
Take comfort that your prayer has reached Aal.”
The words resonated with the lost soul. His mission to discover the truth of the Blackstar had reached an unfortunate end. But to return to a fortress filled with those who deny the teachings? Those old men who revel in the power they have over the servants of Aal? Perhaps he should obey the command, return to where his journey began and turn his brothers back towards the true path, and not that of the false leaders.
“Of all Aal’s servants, I appeared for you, and in this apparition I will reveal the truth.
I am the truth, so return and pray, for there you shall fulfill the rest of your mission.
If each of your deeds is a grain of sand, then you are the reason for the Great Desert.
You have filled the space between Valencia and Mediah with your heroics, and with these deeds you need to take comfort, and spend the rest of your time under Aal’s blessing.”
As he listened to the words, the lost soul began to reflect on the commandments of Aal. The first apostle, Barhan, took the words of Aal and committed them to scripture. The last apostle, Kayal, spoke of the Blackstar’s fall and how it would open the doors to paradise to the north. However the Blackstar did fall to the west, yet paradise had not opened its shrouded gates. And in that moment, the mist in his mind began to fade, and clarity was once more his.
Stand aside false herald, for those of pure intention would not speak with a serpent’s tongue.
In that moment the ground around them shifted as thousands of sand colored snakes slithered away, revealing a grand city in front of the soul and the herald.
“Take stock of your surroundings, servant. Your birthright surrounds you. Breathe in the city, let it fill your very being. Worship me and I will ensure that your blood sits on the throne of Valencia for the rest of time.”
“The serpentine shadow whispers of a paradise filled with false hope.”
The soul was now fortified by the teachings of Aal.
“The serpentine shadow whispers of a paradise.”
The soul realized what it was he must do.
“The serpentine shadow whispers.”
The soul reached out.
“Servant of Hadum, with Aal on my side I shall not falter.
This servant is loyal only to Aal, and I must do what is within my power to best serve him.
I am the Blade of Aal, so prepare, foul creature, for today will be your last.”