Malus: World of War I
Denizen of the Calibur and the Edge
Stories you might want to be familiar with:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Call of Duty
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Legend of Zelda
CHECHNYA, RUSSIA, 9:34 PM
Months had passes since the end of the Second Chechen War. Russia and Chechnya had continued to struggle with each other for what seemed like a futile, childish pursuit of petty greed and unnecessary power, even after their first war with each other had ended. And though it slowly grew in its casualties and its scale, it had come to an abrupt halt when Frollo set foot in the land as a part of his crusades. He had made deals and treaties with the Soviet Union's current ruler, Queen Grimhilde, its most powerful arms dealer Imran Zakhaev, and its top general, Nikita Dragovich, that would allow the Lord High Protector of France to use Chechnya as a ground for his troops and his weapons. Consenting to the deal, Grimhilde allowed Frollo's military into Chechnya, and they slaughtered the resistance and drove the land into poverty and debauchery. There were frequent executions of Gypsies, sorcerers, and criminals held there now, so every man within the broken spit of land groveled in terror of Frollo's, and Russia's, might.
And this day was yet another where the Chechnyans groveled under the boot of France's unofficial ruler. All, that is, except for a man who had arrived in the broken region with a single intent. He walked about in a brown, dirtied cloak, a hood hanging behind his head over the long handle of his sword, concealing it from Frollo's soldiers, who were marching by bearing powerful guns. He bore blonde hair that was nearly white in its coloration, with a scar over his right eye. Within his soul lied redemption, a concept that he sought without relent and without fear of anything but his own darkness, which he now sought to unleash and restore permanently. And he had been in contact with a man who claimed that he could help him in that endeavor.
The wanderer walked about, proceeding past lines of soldiers, past groveling homeless people, and may have passed more than once in different locations by a man with silver hair and tan skin, dressed in torn garb with his face buried in his arms as he sobbed uncontrollably.
"Kill me! Please kill me!" the warrior could hear him mutter in between frantic weeping.
He simply walked on by until he reached a dumpster, where he saw a man in a winter coat lighting a pipe, the flame of the lit contraption illuminating his face in a bright color as the elderly man looked straight at him. There was a tattoo on his forehead with the appearance of a phoenix, the same mark of his contact's signatures. He had found the man.
He walked up to the old man.
"What lies in your soul?" asked the old man.
"Light to rise, Darkness to perish," responded the warrior.
The elderly man suddenly chuckled, taking his pipe out of his mouth. He then held out his right hand to shake it with the warrior's.
"Welcome to the barren lands of Chechnya, Siegfried Schtauffen."
"David Grimorrum," replied Siegfried as he shook his associate's hand.
As they released each other's hands from their firm grips, Siegfried took last look around.
"Why pick here of all places?" asked the lone warrior.
"Frollo and Grimhilde's soldiers plague every corner of these decrepit slums. Not to mention that the sight of these people suffering is just far too pitiful."
"Well, I honestly think it's rather amusing. But Frollo barely pays any attention to Chechnya. Now that he's expanded his empire into the United States, he has greater matters to concern himself with."
Siegfried restrained a small grunt of disgust toward David's all too obvious sadism, but kept his mind focused on the matters on which they had met on account of. And though he didn't enjoy associating himself with a man who gained power through criminal methods, he was willing to do anything to cleanse his soul of the Darkness.
"I'm holding you to your word, old man. Where's my salvation?" he asked sternly.
"I spoke of salvation. But I am not the one who bears it for you."
Siegfried's eyes suddenly bulged, a steeled, intimidating anger visible in them.
"We had a deal," he said, his tone growing more tense.
David Grimorrum merely stood there, just as cold and calm as ever.
"Hold your tongue, boy. I am indeed a man of my word. I promised you I'd lead you to the key to your salvation, and that is why I brought you here. Frollo's international security is growing more and more powerful. If I simply sent you my directions in the form of a letter or a phone call, they would be bringing me to the stake already. That's why I needed to tell you face-to-face."
The tension in Siegfried's expression calmed, but was still brooding and cold.
"Tell me what I seek then."
David leaned on the right of the dumpster.
"Very well. What you are looking for is a barren wasteland known as the Keyblade Graveyard. There you will find a blade with the power to unlock the hearts of human and animal alike. You can use it to unleash the Darkness within and finish it once and for all."
"Where is it, then?"
David then opened the left side of his jacket a bit, reaching toward an inner pocket to pull out a map. His face still had a pragmatic, calculating expression on it that countered Siegfried's darker and less patient gaze well.
"Here it is. It is one of few realms merged with ours that doesn't require a Nexus Gate to access, so it will be an easy venture. Should you fail, it will still bring you a step closer to your goal if you survive."
Siegfried gripped the map harshly and walked away coldly.
"I won't fail."
As he was walking, he stopped before two of Frollo's Russian soldiers, who were staring him down snidely.
"Passport," one of them said.
"You're not from here. So you give us the passport, or we give you bullets," the soldier continued, cocking his gun along with his partner.
Siegfried merely looked between the two of them briefly, then lunged forward with great speed. He rushed past the soldier who had taunted him before, delivering a side kick in between his legs as he grabbed onto his rifle, snatching it away. The other was aiming to shoot him, but Siegfried then drew his mighty sword, Zweihander, with quick precision, cutting through the fingers that were pressed toward the trigger. As the warrior's opponent dropped the gun, howling in pain, he then cut off the rest of his fingers on both hands with unsurpassed finesse and struck him on the neck with his pommel, knocking him out. Behind him, the other soldier charged forward to tackle Siegfried, but backed away with his hands up in surrender when he found the man's large sword at his throat.
"Thanks for your passport, sir," he said with a shrill, obviously terrified voice.
Siegfried made a brief, cold smile, then swept his sword in both directions quickly, severing his fingers just as he had done with the first man. As that soldier briefly cried out in pain, then groveled against the wall in a grimace of absolute pain, Siegfried made a masterful spin of his sword before sheathing it again.
"Try shooting a gun again without any fingers," he said as he walked away.
David Grimorrum then rose off the dumpster, stepping toward Siegfried's direction a bit.
"And one last minor detail. The guardian of the graveyard. It is said that he is invincible. Be on your guard."
But Siegfried kept walking, not even bothering to turn his head.
"There is only one route that will reveal that claim," he said with a raised voice as he continued along his path to the Keyblade Graveyard.
Siegfried continued to ride the horse he had bought after traveling for three days through air planes, car rides, and finally, buying a horse to travel the next thirty miles. Most of these things he had done through his reluctant connections to the criminal underworld, which was barely breathing in the eastern hemisphere due to Frollo's work. Now, pulling the reins on the horse to bring it to a halt, he stepped off, looking around at his new surroundings. Sheer heat clouded some of what he saw, but he could see most of what lay before him just fine. There were plateaus and mountains with large fissures within them, craters that scarred the ground, and barren, humid soil, unwelcoming and court to an eternity worth of death. It was a lifeless, ruined land that lay before him. But the trait that stood out to him what was perched within the dead land: obscure looking blades stabbed into the ground like swords in graves. Siegfried could tell just by looking. This was an ancient battleground, home to suffering and demise brought about by wars for justice, greed, all of the drives that bring men to fight within the maw of brutality. This was the battleground of warriors of the renowned weapon known as the Keyblade. Unsheathing Zweihander and driving the sword blade first into the decimated ground, Siegfried shut his eyes and took a moment of silence. This time, not for the guilt of his actions. Not for the hatred for the Darkness within. But for respect of fellow soldiers who fought and died for what they believed in, no matter how nefarious their goals may have been. With only the aggressive wind blowing through his cape to disturb the silence, he kept his head lowered and his eyes closed out of respect for true warriors, people much needed in times like these.
Ceasing the moment of silence, he pulled Zweihander from the ground and proceeded to walk through the Graveyard, examining the Keyblades with his cold and focused expression remaining. For it was such a weapon that would cast the Darkness from his soul. But such blades could be dangerous. Which one would grant him liberation? And which one, if any of them, would give the Darkness the upper hand within him? He continued to walk through the graveyard, examining the thousands upon thousands of Keyblades that rested within the Graveyard. However, his concentrated thoughts were interrupted when he heard distant footsteps behind him.
Siegfried turned to see another large cloud of heat, obscuring a figure who was moving forward. After a good deal of seconds, which seemed like hours to Siegfried, the figure was close enough to show that he was wearing a trench coat and had his arms crossed behind his back. Then, after a couple more seconds of waiting, Siegfried saw the elderly figure walk before him, no longer shrouded by the heat. His trench coat was black with a white bottom, which flapped behind him. Beneath the trench coat was a black vest which showed his chest, rather muscular for a man of his age. His arms were covered up to the shoulders in long, black gloves. His black boots were just as long, going up to his knees beneath his gray combat pants. He also bore a white goatee, tan skin, yellow, sinister and conniving eyes, and a bald head. He then ceased his stance several feet away from Siegfried, staring him down. His confident and wily grin was met with Siegfried's atypical frown.
"Siegfried Schtauffen. I bid you welcome to the Keyblade Graveyard," he said in a groveling voice that had seen much.
Siegfried unsheathed Zweihander.
"How do you know my name?"
"You've come seeking the instrument that shall drive the Darkness from your core."
"No. I've come to destroy it."
"The knowledge that you wish to destroy your own darkness alone marks woefully incomplete wisdom, Siegfried. Darkness cannot be destroyed. It can only be channeled."
Siegfried raised an eyebrow.
"Your lectures indicate that you must have some reason for being here. I presume you are the guardian of the Keyblade Graveyard."
"That is correct, boy. Much like you, I am a warrior. One who has seen the brightest Light of a new age, and the greatest Darkness of a new war. A war that will soon rage beyond the boundaries of the Nexus itself."
As the old man continued to speak, his yellow eyes glistened with curiosity akin to a child, and intent akin to malign. Siegfried noticed this, but barely paid it mind.
"You are indeed a fellow warrior. And for that, I respect you. But I've come to fulfill my duty to the Light, not wander in the Darkness of riddles. If you are truly a wielder of the Keyblade, unlock the Darkness so that I may smite it where it stands."
The elderly warrior than raised his right hand from behind his back, his fingers twitching as if itching to grab something.
"Of course, I shall grant you the key to the freedom you so desperately covet. But first..."
The man then held his hand out, an orb of black lightning extending from it. And then, from the lightning, a black Keyblade emerged.
"You will need to prove yourself worthy of the reward."
Siegfried brandished his sword, twirling the heavy blade as though it were as light as a stick in his hands as he walked forward.
"I am not in the mood for games, old man. Step down and grant me what I came for, or I might have to kill you."
But the elderly swordsman stepped forward, Keyblade brandished gracefully in his right hand, his left hand remaining restrained behind his back.
"Denizen of the Calibur and the Edge. Show me your strength on this barren soil. Let our intertwining fates in this war begin."
Siegfried then assumed his combat stance, Zweihander at the ready.
"Very well, then," the younger opponent said coldly.
Siegfried then lunged forward to his opponent, who was merely walking. Zweihander was raised like the proud head of a lion, its mane bathed in the sunlight, and then brought down mightily and swiftly. But the Keyblade Master deflected the blow with a quick flick of his blade, holding his own as Siegfried advanced with more deadly blows. Zweihander's wielder twirled his sword in masterful swings, graceful aggression fueling Siegfried's attacks. But the warrior could not advance. The old man was deflecting every one of Siegfried's blows, no effort or strain showing on his grinning face.
With his opponent not giving way, Siegfried then circled him, continuing to trade blow upon mighty blow with the Keyblade Master, who did the same with what seemed like inhuman skill. The Master was twirling and swinging his blade with speed impossible for a man of his age, deflecting every quick and strong blow that was thrown at him. The sound of their blades clashing could be heard from miles out. The sparks from their clashing blows could be seen from a mile away, even through the heat.
Siegfried kept on circling, looking for loopholes in the Keyblade Master's defenses, but he could find none. So, he went with a different tactic. Gathering his strength for a particularly strong blow, he struck Zweihander against the calm defense of the Keyblade, creating a vibration that shook the portion of the ground beneath them. He then slipped Zweihander around the Master's defenses, allowing the Keyblade to fall forward, and made a masterful swing that would cut through the old man's stomach. But quicker than Siegfried could have seen, the Master raised his Keyblade in front of Zweihander once again, knocking the sword aside, and then, with a lazy flick of his arm, gave a solid blow to Siegfried's face with the wrist guard of the Keyblade. Siegfried nearly stumbled back, with determination unfaltering. As he was coming to regain his balance, he made a quick swipe toward the Master's throat, but he merely nudged his head back to avoid the blade.
Siegfried then brandished his sword once more and held his sword arm back, with his left hand extended outward, his palm and the edge of Zweihander facing the Master. But the old duelist merely held the Keyblade at his side as calmly as ever, the confident, sinister grin still on his face.
"Now it's my turn," said the elder.
Then, in a flash of raw speed, the Master slashed his Keyblade upward, which Siegfried stepped back to avoid. Zweihander was held toward the Keyblade wielder's throat to hold him at bay, but the old man merely continued walking forward with casual discipline, flicking the blade aside. Determined to not be denied the offensive, Siegfried sidestepped to the right, making a quick stab toward the Master's face that pierced through the air. But this was another blow easily avoided as the elder took his head to the left, making a quick swipe toward Siegfried's right leg, which was blocked as the warrior quickly brought Zweihander down to deflect the blow. Siegfried then took a couple of steps back as he knocked aside a thrust and a slash from his left.
On the last blow, the Keyblade was locked against Zweihander, mighty blade struggling against mighty blade. Siegfried began to press the advantage, driving the Keyblade back. But the Master was still grinning. The old man seemed to be giving way though. Siegfried couldn't help but be excited to deliver the final blow and gain victory against a worthy opponent.
However, the Keyblade suddenly twirled in the Master's guiding hand, knocking Zweihander off balance. Before Siegfried could bring Zweihander back into balance, he felt a swift and powerful blow to his face from the pommel of the Keyblade. He quickly shook off the daze, but it was too late. He already felt the Keyblade pierce through his heart as blood poured from the open wound in his chest. The Master had his back turned to him, the Keyblade perched under his left arm and into Siegfried's chest. His grin was still intact, his yellow eyes gleaming meticulously.
"I believe you said you would kill me. Did you not?" he tauntingly said as he pulled the Keyblade from Siegfried, brandishing it once more as it disappeared once again into black lightning.
Siegfried fell to his knees, feeling a surge of power within him. It was a familiar presence. It was the Darkness within, gaining quarter in his heart and soul. Focusing on the Light, he struggled against the overwhelming menace that threatened to blot out what he had left. The conflict had never been this strong. And then suddenly, as Siegfried could feel the Darkness about to claim its prize, it settled, as if simply leaving after defeating the Light. The wanderer between Light and shadow looked up to the Master, who looked down on him like an old soul upon a helpless child, with victory sealed into his smug grin and his yellow eyes.
"You old cur! Who are you?!" Siegfried feebly shouted between grunting and panting born from pain.
"I am Xehanort, the last of the Keyblade Masters."
Siegfried heard the man say his name, but barely paid heed to it. He was still in great pain, but it wasn't a mortal wound. What had the Master done to him?!
"Not to worry," Xehanort spoke reassuringly.
"I simply allowed the Darkness to subside in another side of your heart. It will appear to you when the time comes."
Siegfried looked up in contempt and resentment.
"Bastard! I told you to banish it from me, not seal it once again!"
"You will come to thank me soon enough."
Xehanort then snapped his fingers, and Siegfried felt a great pain burn into his chest. The Darkness was taking hold. The air around him grew tight and cold. He could barely breathe. And suddenly, he felt the world around him vanish, as if nothingness had taken it. As Light and Darkness alike subsided, he collapsed face-first into the barren soil of the Keyblade Graveyard, unconscious.
Xehanort continued to look down on his defeated opponent. What a fool he was, to cower from the Darkness and seek the Light, which was too bright for him to fully accept. That was why he had lost. He kept his train of perplexed thought running even as a Corridor of Darkness opened behind him. Through the penetration in the Nexus walked the Master's apprentice, Vanitas, who walked with cold and sociopathic disposition.
"Has she accepted our proposal?" asked Xehanort sternly.
"She did," Vanitas replied.
Xehanort then looked down on Siegfried, as a Corridor of Darkness was summoned beneath him. He slowly and peacefully sank beneath it. Most would have sensed the presence of the Darkness, but since the lone warrior already wandered between both forces on the edge of a knife, he felt nothing as he was carried away through the blackness. Then, as he was swallowed whole, the Corridor disappeared.
"I have sent him to a kingdom known throughout the ages. He will be in place when the time arises."
The two then heard Siegfried's horse trot its hooves several feet away. Vanitas looked toward it, but Xehanort paid it no mind. The apprentice then looked back to his master.
"Go ahead," said Xehanort, already knowing what his sadistic pupil was thinking.
Vanitas then looked back toward the beast slowly. Though his face was hidden by his black mask, there was still an aura of cruelty exuded from him. He then snapped his fingers, summoning flames of Darkness. They then subsided quickly to create small creatures of Vanitas' own creation: the Unversed.
"Breakfast," said Vanitas darkly as the Unversed slowly and menacingly approached the horse.
CHATEAU D'IF, FRANCE, 8:40 AM
Within the walls of the French prison, Chateau d'If, thousands upon thousands of prisoners were housed for the rest of their lives. The stone citadel of anguish, a mace raised against the weak crying out for help and mercy, was a prison for those of whom France was "ashamed of". Now, it was one of the most feared prisons across a decaying world, expanded into a super prison for all nations. To say the least, it was a brutal confinement for those who had failed to meet the expectations or comply with the demands of Frollo, under the constant cloud of misery sealed with terrible food, one meal a day, permanent life within a filthy cell, isolated and trapped within that single room forever. There was some company for the poor folk who lived within the walls, blotted out from the light of happiness forever. The company composed of rats, some of which were butchered and cooked by the desperate vagrants as soon as they scampered into the cells, prison guards who greeted the prisoners once a month for beatings, lashings, or something arguably worse in the case of the women there, and the scorching heat of summer's day and the blistering cold of winter. This was the hell that was Chateau d'If. Most of the prisoners had descended into the utmost savagery at the hands of the torture and despair which they were barely deserving of, particularly one who once lived the ideal life of wealth and perfection, before he lost everything.
Thankfully, the young man's misery was about to be ridden of. A month's anniversary had arrived for him, which meant yet another beating from the guards. But the once pampered and spoiled aristocrat had grown primitive and violent in his incarceration. There were three guards about to beat him with a club, saying that they would break his jaw to see how well he could eat without it. So, with his bare hands alone, he had snapped one of their necks, stabbed the other one dead with a jagged rock nearby, and strangled the third to death just as he had called for help. Restrained by the guards who had came to the aid of the three dead, the prisoner, a man who had fallen so far, was sentenced to death row, for he had grown too dangerous. For him, it would have been freedom from his misery. But he couldn't die yet. Not until he claimed the only thing that could be possibly left for him in this world: revenge. And his opportunity would soon come. For though he was stripped of his magic by a mark of the Cross branded onto his neck, which somehow enabled the Holy Magic to withhold the mind from any internal or external source of magic, he would be in luck soon enough. However, this had not stopped him from finding a way to grow stronger with his magic.
There was a loud knock on the door as a wheezing and coughing guard could be heard outside.
"Oi! Drake Stone!"
Drake, formerly the most famous stage magician in Manhattan, now a prisoner of one of the world's most powerful empires, looked up coldly toward the door, while sitting slumped in a dusty, filthy corner. There was no emotion in his eyes. No happiness. No care for anything. There was only a hollow void left like a gash in his soul, which could only be filled by the very same thing that made it.
"You have a visitor!"
Drake barely raised his head, still having grime, blood from the guard he had stabbed to death and the rats he'd killed, and the stain of insufferable anger smothering his face.
"Who is it?"
ALAMUT, PERSIAN EMPIRE, 4:49 PM
Within the once peaceful and just city of Alamut, tarnished and conquered by the mighty, but dying empire of Persia, a troubled god-king sat within his throne. There was still pride and utmost confidence in how he seated himself within the conquered throne, but it was wavering. What was once unfazed arrogance was now replaced with fear and doubt that continuously and constantly grew within the mind of the king. As his kingdom was succumbing to the might of who the world now recognized as the true god-king, the ruler of Persia was changing for the worse, slaughtering his own subjects whose failures had cost him his hard-won land, his military mindset faltering even worse than it usually did, and his already decrepit sanity falling to ruin and oblivion. Within the halls of the citadel of Alamut, which he could only dread he would lose soon enough, the so-called divinity of Xerxes sank slowly like a gutted fish in a pond.
Before the ruler of Persia, a dying dragon with its scales slowly falling to an ash filled ground, his adviser, an elderly scribe of Jafar's sent by the usurper from Agrabah, who had been called by the king to his side. Atypically, Xerxes never went to his adviser for council, preferring to leave the decisions of the god-king in the hands of the god-king, he was growing desperate. He needed to defeat Ganondorf no matter what. And there was not a thing he wouldn't do to save his throne. The god-king of Persia, no matter the price, would not be denied.
"You sent for me, your grace," said the old man, dressed in rags, possessed of a filthy gray beard and a gravelly voice, rotten teeth, and hobbling on a wooden cane, as old as him by the looks of it.
"You waste my precious time with this feeble flattery of yours, old man," said Xerxes, his voice almost coming out as a growl.
"The sheep are flocking away from their proud shepherd. They wander blindly into the darkness, away from the light of all power and knowledge. I seek to guide them back to their rightful ruler. It is your duty, as the withered insect on the shoulder of the god-king, to assist in the call."
The old man rolled his eyes, with no care for whether Xerxes would notice or not, at the delusional nonsense he'd heard. He hated serving a man like Xerxes and did not fear him in the slightest unlike so many others, but as long as it served Jafar's intentions, it was worth the strenuous effort.
"Could you please speak with a tad more simplicity?"
Xerxes suddenly stood, his almost inhumanly tall form casting a shadow over the old hermit. His voice rose like a storm, exuding the ever-growing insanity of the falling king.
"What will your call be?! What is your recommendation to lead the people of Persia back to the light of their god-king?!"
The old man grinned slightly.
"There are many women in Agrabah who bear an all too striking resemblance to the women of the Gerudian forces. If the sheep witness the wolves perish helplessly before them at the lash of their shepherd's whip, they will flock back to his side. Back to the light of the god-king."
Xerxes raised his head, the madness still burning in his bulging eyes. He raised his hand slightly as if waiting for the fleeting opportunity to carefully catch a fly buzzing swiftly through the air, his eyes wandering as if following its trail. His eyes then returned to a calm, more serene appearance, as if trying to exude the divine might that he feigned to himself as to gain strength, despite it still being out of his reach. The adviser's suggestions struck a competent chord in his ears. The god-king found it a wise decision of the insect on his shoulder.
"Commission your swiftest bird to soar through the sky of Persia, carrying the message of the god-king through the blistering winds to Agrabah. Your words and your council have served me well, old man. And whatever you desire as a reward, it will be granted. For I am kind."
The old man closed his eyes for a long time, once again incredibly irritated at the delusions he heard the Persian king spew.
"I believe my reward will come to mind soon enough. Thank you, my king."