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Epilogue - The Demon King of Gehenna

 Gehenna, at the highest point of the Tower of Babel. A long vacant throne sat in stillness. Dark, beautiful, and imperious.

Clustered around the tower's base were thousands of the city's citizens. They milled around like a dark sea, separated by race. It was a spectacular sight.

More than ten thousand demons, wrapped in flows of power, stood at the fore. Like dark guardians of this realm they were arrayed with weapons at the ready, hovering in midair.

It was the most important day in all of Gehenna's history.

As more and more citizens clustered round, their eyes were all drawn to the top of the tower. They watched, excited to be here for this momentous event. Of course they could not see what was happening at the tower's peak. But they did know about this one called Cloudhawk who had come to seize power. A dark presence that introduced himself as King. From this moment forward he would be the unchallenged ruler of this place.

From the demonic hordes to every citizen, they were all unconditionally loyal to their leader. The Demon King's arrival ended a millennia of leaderless floundering. Much would change in Gehenna and beyond.

These changes would influence the destiny of this city and everyone in it. What happened here would ripple out into the cosmos. All of it instigated by a dark figure slowly ascending the tower.

His was a frail figure, compared to the others. Wrapped in battered armor and hidden behind a frightening mask, only a pair of burning red eyes framed by salt and pepper hair were visible. His presence was heavy, choking. All of Gehenna could feel it.

"The Demon King ascends!"

"Long live the Demon King!"

"Our supreme leader!"

Chants were taken up by hundreds of thousands of citizens and all the demon guardians. Their cries shook the city and rose toward the heavens, proclaiming their loyalty to the stars.

No one stood beside the king. Alone he ascended the tower to its highest point. With slow and deliberate movements he approached the throne and took his place upon it.

Yet there was nothing in the king's bearing to suggest joy. No pride in bringing the demons to heel. Neither was there the domineering mien of a ruler. In fact there was little about him that was kingly at all. Behind the mask that inspired fear and awe in others, no one could see the thirty year-old man, forced into completing someone else's mission.

The man destined to be the king of demons. He had at last completed his transformation only to continue the exhausting march toward whatever end fate had planned. He didn't know what was to come, but he did know that it led him to Sumeru and the invincible God King.

It didn't matter if he accepted it, if the desire came from somewhere inside or from someone else. At last he was set upon the throne. The new Demon King had arisen.

Both gauntleted hands rested on Godslayer's hilt, its tip pressed against the dark stone. As Cloudhawk rested upon his throne ominous winds whipped through the continent. He heard the cries of his citizens outside, their voices carried on the winds like some bleak funeral dirge.

Visions of a brief life flashed through the Demon King's mind.

Days of scavenging the wastes as a small human boy. Stumbling into a sweepers' nest. The first time he laid eyes upon the Phase Stone. From that moment he was destined to wear the crown.

He would never forget the Tartarus mercenaries who took him in at Blackflag Outpost. Memories of Artemis dying in his arms in Greenland would never fade. Adder, the Crimson One, Arcturus... Dawn. Their voices and strength of will would remain forever with him, forming a chorus always in the background. Although they were gone, fragments of them remained.

Fragments that together built the king who sat here today.

Grand Elder Legion approached slowly. "Everyone is prepared."

The Demon King nodded. "Then begin."

Outside, things were changing within the crowd. A segment of the population all knelt toward the tower. This was a race of rich psychic power. "The people of the Protos will fight with the Demon King against Sumeru. We will take back our home!"

"The survivors of Velpecula will follow our King into battle. We will take back our home!" A large group of hazy humanoid figures prostrated themselves before the tower.

"Tylons pledge their service to the King! We will take back our home!" A third group of metallic figures moved in unison like a host of robots.

"We Zarayzi will fight the gods on behalf of the Demon King. We will take back our home!" Chittered promises came from a group of intelligent insectoid creatures.

These four groups were the most populous of Gehenna's races. They and every other species here were refugees from the tyranny of the gods, displaced by their insatiable hunger. For a thousand years they lived in darkness and never during that time did they entertain the idea of exacting vengeance on their attackers. But the tragedies their people suffered were forever burned into their spirit. They would never forget what was taken from them.

With the arrival of a new King, all the groundwork laid by Legion and the other elders came to fruition. They incited this angry passion, awakening their thirst for vengeance. All were willing to give their lives in a struggle to win back their homes. To die for their King.

"All demons of Gehenna are at the pleasure of our King."

Haborym, representing the thousands of demonic soldiers, loudly swore his service. With his cry all the demons descended to prostrate themselves. Thousands of vicious and unruly demons offered themselves up to their new ruler.

Legion surveyed the scene. After a thousand years of careful ministrations he could finally breathe easier. His mission was complete. What followed was in the hands of the new King. He must guide them the rest of the way.

Where, at the path's end, the Demon King would face his arch-nemesis.

"The Great War has sparked again." The Demon King's voice thundered across the city. It drowned out every other sound in this pocket dimension. "This time, there is no longer a Gehenna to fall back to. Either we win and rebuild, or fail and are destroyed."

"Victory! Victory!"

The city seethed. In this crucial instant everyone burned with a fighting spirit. They had to win - they had to survive.

A thousand years. Of waiting, preparing, licking their wounds.

The time for vengeance had come.