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In modern-day Moniyan, the vast majority of those sentenced to capital punishment are sent to war. To be granted such a glorious death is Moniyan's final show of benevolence to these unforgivable criminals.
Phoveus is locked in a prison wagon along with several other convicts, and watches the world outside the iron bars with a blank expression. It's a desolate scene: aside from countless bones of the dead, there is naught but blackened earth as far as the eye can see.
For these are the Barren Lands, the Land of Despair.
Mulling over the events that had led to his imprisonment, Phoveus grows steadily more enraged until he can hold it no longer. He carried lofty ambitions, and had planned to use his strength in taking back glory for the Moniyan Empire. To this end, Phoveus had fought and achieved greatness in battle. These attainments meant he would soon ascend to the role of Captain of the Moniyan Empire's eastern front or so he had thought. Instead, the son of a high-ranking official was given this role instead by his father. Taken over by rage, Phoveus sought out this official's son to face him in a duel, yet could not hold back his anger and slayed the man, which in turn led to his imprisonment. From then on he would be subjected to inhuman treatment as a convicted prisoner..
Phoveus pulls himself together and realizes that they have already reached the barracks. Soldiers prod them down from the wagon with their long spears like so much cattle, and they form a squadron of new recruits, a team of death row convicts. In place of the usual soldier getup fine armor and a helmet this convict crew are given no defensive equipment and only a dulled old longsword each; yet their duty is to stave off the first and most savage wave of demon forces.
The horns of war finally sound, and standing at the very forefront of the first line, Phoveus charges at the creatures that mill out from the Abyss' depths. A comrade falls to the ground dead beside him, followed by another, and yet another. Step upon the marshy ground, he realizes it's saturated thick with blood.
The demon armies are brutal without compare. Far from warfare, the scene more resembles a slaughter, and Phoveus comes to understand that his only chance of surviving this cruel massacre would be to become one of them. No matter how many foes he hacks down before him, another always rises to take their place and comes at him ceaselessly. He yearns desperately to possess a greater power, to make it through this alive, and take control of his own fate: he's resigned to never accept defeat. While his arms are now heavy from the extended fighting, his legs weak, a sheer force of will drives him to keep going.
Before he's realized it, Phoveus has already distanced himself from the main squadrons to reach a most mysterious formation of huge stones. Having cleaved the head of the last enemy from their shoulders, Phoveus finally collapses to the ground consumed by pure exhaustion. When he raises his head once more, he can just about make out what seems to be a purplish glow, a light shining not far from him.
It's just at that moment that a bizarre force raises Phoveus' enfeebled body from the ground, and leads him as he heads forward once more. When he stops, he finds something most peculiar laid before him among the mysterious stones: what appears to be a cage. He hesitates for a second before deciding to take it with him, yet upon touching it, the odd light inside is extinguished and fades away.
On the trek back, Phoveus comes across a small company of soldiers who have also separated from the main forces. They're wholly taken aback by Phoveus' sudden appearance: how could a death row conscript deployed to the front lines make it back in one piece? They greet him warmly. While not keen on taking such weak men as his comrades, Phoveus knows that he would never survive all alone out in the Land of Despair. A burning hatred for the fact that his powers are so limited fills his mind.
"Look at me, Phoveus..." He hears a strange voice.
Who was that? Craning his head to look around for the source of the voice, Phoveus finds that nobody else had heard it, nor even made a sound.
"Listen to your heart, Phoveus. You desire great power..."
The ethereal murmuring continues drifting toward Phoveus, and floating around within his head. It's then that he finally notices that what seems to be a soul is held within the cage he's carrying, a surging thing that emanates a light most peculiar.
Power... It's because I'm not powerful enough. That's why I ended up getting taken in by these lowlifes... That's why I can hardly fend for my own life upon this godforsaken battlefield... My lack of power is the only reason I let those military bastards manipulate me like this...
Were I only strong enough, I could escape the confines of this world!
"Yes... Accept my power... None shall be able to stop you..."
As if having heard his innermost thoughts, that peculiar voice sounds once more.
And so, Phoveus continues on with the small group for several days, the words of that caged spirit echoing throughout his mind. He wraps the cage's chains tightly around his shoulders, bringing it near to form as close a connection as possible. He even begins conversing directly with the spirit, no longer able to hold back his burning desire for power.
The day grows darker, and the ridges of the Rantha Mountains are bathed in the setting sun. A crimson glow dapples the lines of clouds, streaming down upon Phoveus' head.
The blue skies slowly make way for the darkness of night, and the warmth of the sun fades to give way for a chill that radiates from the frigid earth. The men build a bonfire and huddle around its flames, sharing mugs of Moniyan liquor as they stave off the biting cold.
As per usual, Phoveus sits a distance away from the crowd. He watches as they jubilantly enjoy their dinner, the aromas of roast meat and strong drinks drifting over accompanied by the leaping flames, their piercing laughter: they all combine in an assault on his senses. By now, he's already made his decision, and cannot bear to associate with such halfwits any longer.
"What are you waiting for?"
"Sacrifice your eyes unto me, and my power shall be yours!"
This time, when the voice begins to sound again, Phoveus doesn't hesitate. He stands and raises the cage up high, and within it the spirit forms an eye that opens to beam forth a blinding purple light. This beam of ultimate power floods throughout Phoveus' body and spreads throughout the vicinity; so strong is the light that it burns out his very eyes. Yet now, the unnatural power it has instilled within him allows Phoveus to sense everything around with incredible clarity.
Phoveus is now a man reborn. He descends upon the soldier group, slaughtering every last man. The new strength flowing within him makes Phoveus feel truly unequalled in power, and he throws his head back in laughter. All the degradation he had endured is now replaced instead by a pure joy, yet it's still far from enough. His fate is still in the clutches of the cage he holds in his hands...
"It is I, Astaros, God of Terror. Descend into the Dread Caves, and awaken my body that slumbers within, Phoveus. Then I shall bestow you with a power greater than any other!"
Phoveus casts a condescending glance at the cage, and snorts disdainfully. Then, he sets out once more on a journey south toward the Abyss.