The light drips down into the heavily forested glade, like a thief seeking refuge from the sky above, slow, calculated, but bold. A masked face glances upwards as the leaves began to rustle, a scowl plastered on his face, the only sign of the facial disgust were the corners of his mouth, just visible behind the mask. The red feathers atop his mask wavered in the wind, as he once again looked down and began to move his hands. Bound he was, tied up and left to await punishment and trial. Trial for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe the trial had something to do with poisoning the leader of a Pygmy tribe out in the wilds of Keeras. It didn’t matter, for he was not going to remain a prisoner.
His hands motioned faster and faster, with almost nonsensical movements, stretching the vine that corded his wrists. Mal’Damba struggled for what felt like eternity but was most likely only three or four minutes, until the vine was loosened enough for him to slide his hands right out. He stood up and rubbed his wrists tenderly, checking for any real damage to his hands. Thoroughly satisfied, he rushed into the forest, north by northeast, if the light filtering through the canopy was to be believed. Mal’Damba had to get back, he was in no condition to fight, and was prepared to fight even less.
Rushing through the forested wilderness, ducking and diving over rocky and tree based obstacles alike, he emerged into a clearing…empty, save for a simple stone altar, with signs of a major struggle. Pots and gourds were overturned, valuable herbs were strewn on the ground without a care. Mal’Damba scowled once again and swore, the first word out of his lips since his capture. They had snuck up on him while he was engrossed in his work and he would not let that transgression go unpunished. Hurrying to his destroyed possessions, he gathered together arrowroot, basil, quione berries and an orb containing lemon juice and myanthr, an incense herb. Mixing it all together in a large mortar, he dipped his fingers into the now purple liquid and drew three lines over his face, each going a different direction. Mal’Damba then inhaled the fumes of the liquid…and everything went black.
Mal’Damba awoke in a void, black as pitch, incomprehensibly black, and a shiver went through him. She liked black way too much. He stood in the dark, naked and without aid, fear coursing through his veins, though he was used to it when dealing with Wekono. A voice coursed through his subconscious, numbing every other thought. “Why have you come here Mal’Damba?” Why have you summoned the Mistress of Dismay?”. There was no use lying here, so he spoke up, “I want more power! The power to weave herbs has served me well but I want more”, recalling his captivity. It was how it had been for years, his work constantly destroyed by the savages infesting the wilderness. He would always escape but the pattern would continue. “Would you give yourself, wholly and willingly to me, Mal’Damba?” the voice purred. The answer came quickly, “Yes”. “Then you shall rise….as Wekono’s Chosen”, the blackness began to roil and rise, and a pair of crimson eyes shone through the darkness, piercing his chest and leaving Mal’Damba to fade into unconsciousness once more.
When he awoke, he discovered two large wounds on his chest, already healing but leaving behind large scars. He quickly put on his robe once again and went to stand, but found his legs unwilling to obey him. He was still weak, unable to even walk. But he was not going to die here. Mal’Damba dragged himself to his simple stone altar, and began to mix, pound and chop his way through ingredients. When he was finished he gazed upon three vials of a healing philtre. He hastily gulped one down and found, that even though he was shaky, he could stand. Once again in control, he gathered up some of the more volatile potions he had made out of an underground vault he dug out many moons ago…just in case. Attaching these potions to his robes, he began to skulk through the darkness hunting for the tribe of pygmies that so often desecrated his work.
It took him five days of wandering but Mal’Damba eventually found himself overlooking the small-ish village that housed the enemies of Wekono’s Chosen. The pain in his chest flared up again, and another healing philtre was consumed – one left. Though it did not do anything to allay the pain, his vision bent and changed and Wekono’s voice echoed through, “Embrace the fear. Embrace Nekoron. Cast it away only to instil your fear unto others”. With a jolt, Mal’Damba awoke, finding with a whole lot of dread a cobra, that had wrapped around his forearm. Nekoron, the tool of the Chosen presumably. Unsure of what to do but driven to do it, Mal’Damba wrapped his hand around the throat of Nekoron, and with a mental flick of his witch doctor brain, sent a glob of venom from the mouth of the serpent into a nearby tree, dissolving it.
Mal’Damba smiled and strode down into the village, master of fear, creator of despair. Cries and shouts rang out in alarm, and arrows began to fly towards Mal’Damba. Embracing the will of Wekono, he slithered through them, both leading and following Nekoron. Venom flying from the mouth of his servant and gourds of volatile liquid being thrown by Mal’Damba himself, he strode to the centre of the village, only to find himself surrounded and opposed on all sides. Too many to fight…fear began to flood into his mind, his body. So he cast it out. Pushing every ounce of fear towards the pygmies, he found the true power of Wekono’s Chosen, as Nekoron leapt off Mal’Damba’s arm and grew until he was a huge, terrible discoloured entity in the heavens. Hissing violently, Nekoron embodied the very fear Mal’Damba had felt for years, and now the villagers felt that same fear, fleeing with their feeble screams.
As they fled, Mal’Damba began to sink to his knees. The battle had taken a lot from him and there was a price for being the Chosen. For as he was able to unleash the power of the serpents, the serpent had become part of him, envenomating him from the inside. Gulping down his last philtre, he eased himself to his feet and stood tall, the master of fear and it would seem an unwilling master of healing.