The demons of the forests and mountains are separate from the race of humans. They emerged in an earlier Creation, made by older gods. The ones that have survived into the age of the current Creation are powerful and strange, but rarely seen. Occasionally, though, the demons grow covetous and lustful. Distrustful of each other, they vent their desires upon humans, who are too weak to resist. When a male demon mates with a female human, the union always results in a child, for a demon's seed is powerful, and the child is always male. These children go by many names, but the most common name, spat out with disgust by husbands and fathers, is Bastard.
This entity is the fifth Bastard fathered by the demon Chagmog. Shunned for giving birth to a Bastard (Bastards are impossible to abort in the womb), his mother became a crazed hermit. Her only company was her son, whom she despised, but also depended upon for food and protection.
One day, when the Bastard was out hunting, a traveling warrior came upon the old woman's house and asked for water from her well and a bowl of rice from her table. A peasant must always assist a warrior when asked, so the woman began drawing water from the well. As she did so, the Bastard returned, carrying the corpses of two foxes tied to a long stick. The warrior immediately threw down his cup, let out a battle cry, and attacked the Bastard. Bastards, being half demon, are much stronger than humans, but the old woman's son had never fought before, and was only armed with a stick. The warrior defeated him, sending him fleeing into the woods, and burned the old woman's house, for the mother of a Bastard is cursed. The old woman, being crazed, walked into the burning wreckage, and died.
The warrior continued on his travels, and many years later he reached a temple on one of the northern islands, where he became a great master and teacher. His skills only grew as he aged, and even as an old man he could defeat any who challenged him. His disciples were renowned as the greatest swordsmen of all the kingdoms.
One bright morning in spring, the master warrior sat beneath a blooming cherry tree, which he had planted when he arrived at the temple. The tree was tall and broad, with many strong branches. His young disciples sparred with wooden swords in the courtyard before him while his most senior students, some of whom were nearly as old and skilled as himself, watched for error.
As the master watched, a new figure stepped onto the courtyard. This figure wore the billowing cloak and gaudy horned mask of a traveling entertainer. The master spoke a single soft word, and all his students ceased practicing and made way for the entertainer, whom the master had beckoned to come to him. The master bade the entertainer to perform for them, to act foolish and amuse them and to create illusions to dazzle them. The master knew the entertainer would give a good performance, for only the best would dare risk displeasing the greatest swordsmen in the kingdoms.
The entertainer bowed deeply and silently, and went to work. He produced a dozen unlikely items from his cloak--an egg, a toad, a woman's mirror--and began to toss and catch them in intricate patterns, all the while telling ridiculous stories and making absurd claims, to the great amusement of his audience. The performer then produced a small canvas basket and proceeded to catch every item with it, though it was surely too small to hold them all. He then adopted a stance that indicated he was going to begin a dramatic performance.
The performer passed his hand before his mask and it became that of an old woman, and then turned his outermost cloak inside out so that it suddenly appeared ancient and tattered. Changing his voice so that he was both the narrator and the old woman, he told her story of hardship, of her son who caused her so much grief and suffering, but upon whom she depended for her livelihood. He turned his cloak inside out once again, and it was the rugged garb of a hunter, and his mask changed into the face of a strong young man. The young man told his story of hardship and toil, of how he struggled to provide for his beloved mother, even though she despised him. Another transformation, and the performer wore the robe and stern face of a warrior disciple. So complete was the illusion that he could have easily passed as a student of the master himself. He told the warrior's story of long travels and doing good deeds. Presently, the warrior came upon the house of the old mother, and the performer became her, and offered the warrior hospitality, and assured him that her worthless son would be home soon with food. Another change, and he was the warrior again, telling the woman that if her son was worthless, he would teach him a lesson. Presently, the performer became the son, who returned home. He produced the pelt of a fox, and offered it to his mother and the warrior for dinner. The warrior and the son exchanged words, first calmly, and then with rising anger as the mother kept complaining and telling the warrior of her son's supposed crimes. The warrior produced a sword--a real sword, though bent and with a notch in the blade--and threatened the son. The son then suddenly stepped towards the master and confessed to him that he had been lying. His mother and the warrior did not despise him because he was lazy or worthless, as he had told the audience, but because--he changed his mask to one that was green and frightening--he was a Bastard. The audience gasped, for they were under the story's spell, and the master felt a strange glimmer of familiarity. The warrior shouted that he would slay the bastard and his accursed mother and set fire to their house, and produced a torch which flashed into flame. The performer threw off his cloak and tore off his mask, revealing a suit of dark armor and a terrifying green face. The audience shouted with surprise, and the master's oldest and greatest student let out a cawing laugh, delighted by the illusion. The master felt another pang of recognition, stronger and more troubling than before. The performer stood quite still and the master's students quieted, tensely waiting for the story's next revelation. The performer gave it to them. He said, "I must confess, great master, for I have been lying once again. This performance, which I have presented to you as a fable, is not so. It is true, though it has been so long that you have surely forgotten. The warrior in this tale is you, master, and the old woman my mother. And I have removed my costume, and I present myself to you as the Bastard. You defeated me once, and you have only grown in skill in the years since. However, I am the son of the demon Chagmog, and I have grown greater."
With that, the Bastard stepped forward and swept the head from the shoulders of the Master's greatest student, who somehow had still believed that he was watching a performance, and did not defend himself. The Bastard threw the flaming torch into the branches of the cherry tree which the master had planted, igniting them. The master's students shouted with surprise and rushed forward to attack the Bastard. The younger students, however, were still armed with wooden practice swords only, and many fell beneath the Bastard's ugly sword before the rest realized their error and fled to fetch more suitable weapons. The master's greater students, armed with long swords, short double swords, flanged maces, chained flails, and all manner of formidable weapons, fell upon the Bastard, who held them off with his lightning-quick strikes. One by one the great students fell, their bodies torn and their weapons shattered. The lesser students, mad with devotion to their master, armed themselves and swarmed upon the Bastard, who cut them down like a sickle through wheat.
The master's mind was blank with shock and awash with memory. He had forgotten about fighting the Bastard and burning his mother's house so many years ago, for it had seemed so insignificant an action, a thing that any good man would have done without a second thought. To see such an action return to him with such disastrous consequences filled the master not with dismay, but with a profound sense of surprise. There are some sages who say that the only way to appreciate life is to experience every moment in a perfect state of surprise. In his final moments, as the branches of his tree fell about him and the flames began to consume his robes, his hair, his flesh, the master attained enlightenment.
The son of Chagmog stood unmoving for a long time. The greatest swordsmen in the kingdoms lay dead around him in a ring of torn cloth and shattered armor. His greatest enemy was reduced to ash before him. As he stood, a dark cloud moved through his mind, and he felt the six arms of a demon embrace his spirit. A shadowy voice whispered to him, beckoned him to come into the mountains, to meet his brothers, to serve his father. There was great work to be done. The demons would rise again and enslave humanity, and Chagmog and his sons would rule all.
The Bastard stood still for some time longer, and the cloud passed. He turned and left the bloodied courtyard of the temple, but did not sheath his sword. Another battle yet remained.
So yeah, another one where the description sorta took on a life of its own.
A bit like "Vampire Hunter D" meets "Kill Bill," eh?
Anyway, those of you with good memories may remember this as one of my Team ChoW sketches [link]
. Now, more than half a year later, I've rendered him up. I started thinking of him as "The Bastard" even when I was first sketching him, and as I did this more refined rendering of him a character history and storyline emerged in my mind. This story here actually isn't the one I was imagining; this really did take on a mind of its own, and surprised me as I wrote it. The storyline I imagined had more to do with the Bastard's father and his various half-brothers. I like the one I ended up writing, though.
...I can't think of anything else that needs to be said about this piece, so I guess just stay tuned for more. I'll probably draw some more characters from this storyline.