Apox, Sunderer of Vautu
"Their so-called god, it is claimed, loves, and thus love is their virtue. Foolishness! Love is only fear of loss, and fear is among the keenest of weapons in our arsenal. Let us turn their virtue onto itself, and draw more souls into the Devouring Maw."
- The Paragon, address to his Overlords, in the second year of the Sectarian Wars
Apox is a tall, imposing figure, sinewy and dense muscles wrapping his form. His left arm is grotesquely disfigured, a large axe replacing everything below the elbow, flesh seeming to have grown up around the handle. All of his exposed skin is grayed and pockmarked, marred by numerous scars all over. The head is shaved bald, a few stray bits of gray-black fuzz growing here and there; sad blue eyes shine like sapphires set in stone out of the otherwise gaunt and drab face. Apox's torso is draped with a sort of armor, apparently formed from leather, metal and bone scavenged from the battlefield. The stench of rotting flesh seems to permeate the air around him.
In the tiny Modoal village of Ruselle, Marquas Shimm was a beloved man. A simple lumberjack and man of great strength, his local fame as a hero was established when he rescued his fellow workers from a falling greatwood in a feat of bravery. Three loggers were trapped under fallen branches when a hollowed tree unexpectedly fell; the force was enough to bring another dead trunk to topple and fall toward them. Marquas threw himself against the falling trunk - a wasted life for any man of lesser strength. The trunk fell inches away from the trapped lumberjacks, their lives saved by Marquas' sacrifice of a forearm crushed beneath the a limb. For the rest of his life, Marquas was the talk of the town, the local hero who could - and would - do anything for you.
And then came the fateful Everday, the festival celebrating Modoal's faithfulness even in darkness. Dressed in his finest with his wife and two children, Marquas watched as the priests drew the Sun-Fire torch from the temple and passed the light into the crowd. As their torches and candles lit evening, more lights appeared from the woods. First there was confusion, then screams as the Vautuan raiders rushed into the village, lighting fire to the buildings and slaughtering the people. Quickly gathering his family, Marquas rushed home to retrieve his lumber axe, his left arm still strong enough to wield it. Even holed up in their small home with Marquas fighting valiantly for his family, it was only a matter of time before they were overcome. The Overlord of the war party had them captured; odd, Marquas thought even then, as the rest of the village lie dead and slaughtered.
Pogrom the Overlord stood with the boy at his side, weeping and shaking with fear. Two raiders stood beside him, one with his wife and the other with his daughter, the warriors' eyes red and crazed, their hands seeming to barely hold their quivering blades at his his family's throats.
Marquas noticed that his own arm was shaking, sweat and tears pouring from his face. The Overlord grunted - or was it a laugh? - as he held the boy, no older than twelve. "Your kin - I will kill them now," the creature rasped, his face hidden by an iron helm that seemed welded to his person.
"No!" Marquas spat, eyes on his son. "Let them go, or -!"
"Or what?!" the Overlord roared fearsomely, causing even his fellow warriors to flinch. "You have nothing of meaning for me, nothing that I would value but your pain. But for you, I hold the world."
Marquas' hand shook uncontrollably. "Don't hurt them!"
The Overlord paused for a moment before drawing his blade across the boy's throat, slow and steady. Marquas heard himself scream as his son's bleeding body was thrown to the ground. His body spasmed, dropping the axe and falling to his knees, his wife and daughter bawling in terror.
Pogrom waited, as though taking it all in. The sound of breath escaped his thick iron helm. "Go and tell what you have seen," he rasped plainly. "Tell them the hunger of Vautu will be sated. I shall kill your daughter, and then your wife."
"NO!" Marquas roared as the Overlord and his guards turned to leave. The last remaining bits of his will shattered. "I- I'll do anything you ask!"
The Overlord stopped. If he could see the face, Marquas knew it would have smiled. "Anything?"
That evening, kneeling before Overlord Pogrom, Marquas took the oaths of the Cultus that bound his life and soul to Vautu. To Marquas, it was a meaningless ceremony that he performed to protect his family; the Overlord was perfectly aware of this, which made it all the more sweet. Pogrom strung him along for a few weeks, keeping his women just within sight as they marched in and out of Modoal territory. Marquas, meanwhile, was starved and beaten, making physically painful the misery from the loss of his village and his son. Many times he wished to die, but the thought of abandoning his family haunted and cursed him, just clinging to the shreds of his remaining will.
At last one evening a heavy blow struck Marquas' head. He awoke bound and blindfolded in a warm and humid room, the sound of crackling fire nearby. Once his blindfold was torn off by the rough hand of a guard, Marquas found himself in some dark basement before a gaunt young man dressed in black robes, standing before the kneeling Overlord Pogrom.
"My Paragon, I bring you a gift as you have asked."
The young man, apparently called Paragon, gazed at Marquas as one might appraise a cut of beef at market. "So you have," he said almost absentmindedly. He stepped forward, drawing close to Marquas. "Tell me, slave, why are you here?"
"You people brought me here," Marquas rasped, his throat dry from at least a day without water, courtesy of the Overlord's guards.
The Paragon raised a thin eyebrow. "You have no desires, no hopes, no dreams? My lieutenant would not have brought you here if he did not think you wanted something from me; stupid though he may be, even he knows that would mean death."
Marquas thought he saw Pogrom flinch, just barely. "I didn't desire to come here," he repeated. "Your people dragged me here." Whatever this Overlord wanted, he would not have it out of Marquas.
The Paragon sighed. "Fine then. I shall have your wife and daughter before killing them."
Clarity snapped back into Marquas' mind as quickly as the thongs securing his arms. He lunged at the Paragon with a scream before finding himself slammed and pinned against the far wall. His arms pushed back at the invisible force while he still raged and cursed against the Paragon, who seemed amused. "There it is, then. If you want your family to live, you must listen to me." With effort Marquas restrained his mouth and snapped his furious attention to the Paragon. "You have taken the oaths swearing your allegiance to me and the Gaping Maw, to which you have paid no attention, and so be it. I am not interested in empty words, only action and service. I shall make you a soldier, a gladiator slave in my service. You will do what I ask, kill whom I ask, whatever I deem necessary. If you deviate at all, break one word, one letter, one iota of my orders, I will slaughter your wife and child like diseased cattle. Obeying my will - the very will of the Voracious One - is the only hope you have for the survival of your family." The Paragon stepped close and stared into Marquas' eyes, boring into his mind with his intense gaze. "I have made myself quite clear, then. Do you submit?"
Marquas choked down the bile rising in his throat. He had no choice. "My life is yours - Paragon."
By dark and ancient powers, the Paragon changed Marquas Shimm, warped the form of a broken man into a twisted, tortured weapon. His lumber axe became a permanent fixture, wedged into the stump of his forearm and strengthened with sinew and muscle, becoming an extension of the body. Through tremendous torture, the Paragon burned away his memory, personality and identity, leaving only the ghostlike memory of his family, fear for their safety, and his rage against the Cultists. Even his name was lost to memory, and he was called only Apox by the Vautuans. He became a mind slave, a relentless machine that loathed only himself more than his masters, but didn't dare stray from their words.
In the service of the Cultus, Apox committed heinous crimes and became infamous throughout the Continent. Given command of a sizable platoon, Apox was sent to high profile towns of cultural and religious importance to desecrate temples and slaughter populaces, directing the Modoal Empire's forces on stopping him. He proved an able distraction, allowing the Overlords to focus on more important cities whose troops were redirected. For his part, Apox thought nothing of the destruction, thinking only of saving his family at the sacrifice of his own salvation. In time he lost the will to even question their whereabouts, too afraid of what the answer might be; thus, the Shimms have long since disappeared, the Paragon having no reason to provide the enslaved warrior with any answers. During the Sectarian Wars, Apox became the target of much of the Continent's hatred, seen as the wicked champion of evil, "Vautu's Sunderer." Whether the tortured identity of Marquas Shimm still exists beneath Apox's bloodstained visage is a mystery.
Apox is equipped very simply, with makeshift armor, a few daggers at his belt, and his ever-present axe.
Anyone in the Sectarian Wars setting is likely to have heard of Apox, Sunderer of Vautu. The world sees him as a villain, and rumors of his history are rampant throughout the Continent. Certainly no one outside of the Cultus of Vautu would know of his true past. A magic user or someone with psyonic abilities might be able to find Marquas Shimm beneath Apox's magic-twisted mind. A party might then need to decide whether he can be converted from his tortured form, or liberated from his miserable life by the sword.
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? Responses (6)-6
Sad, horrifying, and perfectly villainous. Thumbs up.
Very good Dozus! Most impressive!
A villian who would rather be good.
Pretty good take on a destruction of a soul. Never thought I would write a statement like that!
A little curious of the motivation of choosing this armless person amongst others unless it was specifically to try and destroy pure goodness and sacrifice and turn them into what he bacame. The conversation when he was brought in didn't take it that way so had me wonder exactly why him.
I'll chalk it up to dumb luck. Overlord Pogrom wanted to send a message to the rest of the Modoals that the Vautuans were here, and thus he needed a messenger. Among the many that were separated from their families, Pogrom thought that the one-armed man would be the least likely to fight given his condition, thus unlikely to get himself killed. He ordered Shimm's family captured and killed in front of the man, if only to increase his agony. Shimm's submission was a fortunate surprise.