Legend Of Forash

In the early days of the Atlan people, before they drew together as a unified empire, twelve kings vied for control of the many islands. One king, Theykos of Atlan, commanded his court sorcerer Kontaros to procure magic to defeat his foes.

“Faithful Kontaros,” the king said. “Our tropical gem is a small island, and foes surround us. The merchants complain of pirates sent by my fellow kings. What do you propose?”

“My noble king,” Kontaros replied, “Travel between islands is difficult, and those with the greatest navies control the seas.”

“Then you suggest we build a navy?” the king asked. “If so, we must tax the merchants, our only allies.”

“You are wise to observe this paradox,” Kontaros replied. “That is why I propose we be the first to control the skies.”

“We are intrigued,” the king answered, and raised his brow. “If any sorcerer can succeed at such a task, it is you, old friend.”

And so they parted for the day, and Kontaros returned excitedly to his tower to gather supplies. His magic would make an empire, and perhaps one day make him king.

“Where you are going?” his apprentices begged of him.

He spoke little and instructed one apprentice boy to prepare for travel. The boy stuck out his tongue at the others, knowing he was favored. Together, they hiked for three hours to the rim of the island’s volcano. Waves of heat and spitting globes of lava danced in the air. There at the rim, Kontaros drew a magic circle and cast the most powerful spell he knew.

“Oh hear me, Forash, president of Hell’s armies and commander of twenty-nine legions, I beseech your advice.”

“How delightful,” Forash boomed, appearing within the circle. He was a man nine feet tall with the head of a lion, a golden mane, bulging muscles, and crackling ruddy skin like iron coated with blood on fire.

Kontaros was confident and ambitious but not stupid. He had prepared an offering to ensure the fiend did not devour him.

“I offer you this apprentice of mine,” Kontaros said in the fiend’s infernal tongue. The apprentice was his best, crafty in many things, but ignorant of infernal speech.

“Scrawny,” Forash replied, eyeing the nervous boy. “But his lips are thin and tight, suggesting he is quiet and crafty, and his hands will work themselves well in my shop.”

“In exchange,” Kontaros said, “I require aid to defeat my king’s many foes who rule the seas with brash navies. I hope and trust there is some way to rule the skies above them all.”

“You are clever in imagination,” Forash answered. “In reward, I will do better than advise. I will teach you to bind the spirits of long-forgotten fiends onto your own flesh, blood, and bones.”

At this, Kontaros fed his apprentice to Forash. To the boy’s credit, he screamed only a little as he lost his hands. Forash then consulted his own master, Haures, and together they taught Kontaros the history of the multiverse, how to bind forgotten spirits, and how to evoke lesser fiends from the clouds.

In a dozen years, King Theykos commanded the skies with Forash’s minions at his call. When a rival army approached, Kontaros would summon a storm. As lightning crackled and thunder boomed, dozens of winged tarry devils would pour forth from the swirling clouds. As each rival king was defeated, Theykos rose in power, as did his sorcerer Kontaros.

But all was not perfect. Each calling of the sky devils required sacrifices at the volcano. Kontaros offered mostly war prisoners and criminals, but citizens groused. Moreover, even as the rival kings fell, a thirteenth king emerged. The prophets of yore called him the Shadow King. He brought huge black ravens.

One day, in the marble palace, Kontaros visited his king a last time. The king smiled grimly on his high gemmed throne.

“Old friend, my king,” the sorcerer said, “I have bad news.”

“Speak it, and hold nothing back.”

“Though the tide has swelled in our favor for thirteen years, our last foe, the Shadow King, has routed our aerial forces.”

“How can this be?” The king was incredulous. All remnants of the other kings had either conceded to Theykos or had joined with the Shadow King. Their sides were equal, but the sky devils should have given an Atlan victory.

Kontaros explained. “The fiend I spoke of, Forash, his sky devils did not arrive.” He paused. “The pact I sealed with Forash was for thirteen years, and by the last moon, it ended.”

“What can be done?” the king asked.

“How can I say this terrible news,” Kontaros offered in a low voice. Next was a lie that he had to weave perfectly in order to gain the last prize that Forash offered. “The fiend demands a king’s soul,your soul, in exchange for your people’s welfare.” He quickly added, “You could abdicate and crown one of your sons king, thereby saving yourself if you wish.”

“No.” Theykos rarely brooked weakness. With all his courage, he accompanied Kontaros up to the lip of the island’s volcano. As they walked, Kontaros produced a potion from his cloak.

“Drink this, my king, and it will not hurt. Most importantly, you will fool the fiend, and your soul will fly free to the seven heavens where you belong.” This last part was a lie.

Theykos drank the potion, for he knew not what else to do. His mind grew cloudy. He stumbled and could not rise. He watched helplessly upon the sharp volcanic ground as Kontaros drew a magic circle around him and summoned Forash.

“Forash, grant me presidential power over all this empire.”

“How delightful,” Forash spat, appearing within the circle. “To dine on a king, so that a new king is made in my image.”

As Theykos drew his last breaths, he cried out to Kontaros, “My friend, despite your betrayal, you did what I commanded of you to save our citizens. But you underestimate my spirit. By the gods, one day this empire shall fall. On that day, Forash will be sundered just as this island will be sundered, as punishment for misleading you, who I forgive with my whole heart.”

Forash laughed as he devoured Theykos, but the clear blue sky stirred with distant thunder. The gods had heard King Theykos and in one thousand years to the day, would honor his curse.

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