A/N: This started as another one shot for Gifts of Power but as I wrote it I realized how much I want to make it a full story, and as I considered whether or not to just post it standalone or put it with Gifts of Power, I came to the conclusion that the absolute best chance of this getting updated and possibly finished is if I make it its own standalone fic and shame myself into updating it at least semi-frequently.
So here we go on another adventure, and an entirely new type of adventure at that. Vali is a plot device in this first chapter, and will not make another appearance. This story is set in the Netflix Original Series Marco Polo, and will focus on the titular character with a twist that I think everyone will pretty much fully understand by the end of the chapter.
I'm pretty proud of this piece and I'm looking forward to what I have planned going forward, so I hope you enjoy.
Marco kept his head down and tried his best to control the shaking prevalent throughout his entire body. His hands were tightened into fists in his lap as he knelt in the dirt, knuckles bone white from the pressure he was exerting on his curled fingers. Better to think about that, to focus on that, rather than look up and see what he could unfortunately plainly hear happening around him.
The sounds were that of death and horror, and yet Marco did not move, did not try to flee. How could he against such a monster? He'd seen a few of their caravan try to flee along with the animals, when the creature shaped like a man had first revealed his true features and ripped a merchant's head clean off. Faster than Marco's eyes could move, the monster had ran down those who tried to flee and killed every last one, man and animal alike.
Those who'd stayed, who'd cowered in abject terror, had no choice but to kneel in a line when he returned and ordered it in a cultured tone. Ever since, he'd been playing with them, toying with them. He would question each of them and at some point in the questioning, seemingly on nothing but a whim; the monster would kill the one he was questioning, in some gruesomely graphic way.
This was why at this point Marco was keeping his head down. He'd seen more bloodshed today than he'd wanted to see in a lifetime, and with his father and uncle between him and eminent death, he did not want to see either of them die. Marco could not bear it, despite the bad blood between him and his uncle, despite how weak and fragile the growing bond was between him and his father. They were family.
Perhaps that's why he finally managed to still the shaking and rise to his feet. Or perhaps he'd decided at some point during the horrors surrounding him that he'd rather die on his feet then on his knees. Regardless of why he'd done it, the decision was made, and as he expected, the monster was staring at him with a toothy smile when Marco finally raised his head to look the creature in the eye.
"Oh? What's this? Is this defiance? I was beginning to wonder if any of you had an ounce of it in you." The man-shaped thing began walking towards him, and Marco readied himself for death, only daring to hope it would be quick. However, the creature's unerring stare was cut off when his father rose and interposed himself between the two of them.
Niccolo Polo stood between his only son and a monster and pleaded with the merciless creature for mercy. "Please, he's my only son, my flesh in blood. Let him go, I beg of you. You must let him go."
That only served to make the creature amused from the looks of things, even as Marco stared at his father with wide eyes, shocked by such a surprising display of emotion.
"I must let him go?" Marco's eyes flicked back to the monster at those words. His tone was one Marco was quickly beginning to recognize. Dangerous. They were about to die and silently, Marco found his hand coming up to grasp at the cross hanging around his neck.
Only, from one moment to the next they continued to exist. Instead of attacking, the creature chuckled instead before leaning forward as if to peer into his father's soul, "Tell me, what is your name?"
"N-niccolo Polo. M-my name is Niccolo Polo. Behind me is my son Marco Polo, and knelt to your right is my brother, Maffeo Polo." From the way Marco's uncle flicks an angry glance up at his father, Marco is quite sure the man did not want to have any attention drawn his way.
Yet it seemed that the information had had some effect on the creature, as he raised both eyebrows and murmured beneath his breath, "Marco Polo. Yes, of course."
There was a moment of silence before the monster grinned again and clapped his hands together, "Well now I know why I'm here!"
The discourse had begun to lull both Marco and his father into a false sense of security. When the beast smiled and clapped, Marco was almost ready to give a tentative smile back just to placate him a little longer. Then the killing began. Or perhaps it would be best to say the monster finished what he'd already started. Besides the three Polos there were five members of their caravan left alive when Marco stood.
In only a few moments, the five were all dead and as their killer flicked the blood of his last victim from his fingers, Marco's courage and legs finally decided to fail him at the same time. He fell on his ass and stayed there, frozen in horror. The blood-drenched creature started walking towards him and when Niccolo attempted to stand in his way, he was tossed aside with contemptuous ease.
Then, the beast was crouched in front of Marco and smiling winningly. Marco would have even been set at ease by such a smile, if it wasn't sharing face time with fangs, gold and black eyes, and a copious amount of drying blood. At the same time, Marco made the mistake of looking into those gold and black eyes and being unable to escape them, his own eyes locked in place as the monster spoke in a soft inviting tone that Marco found himself unable to resist.
"Cup your hands together for me Mr. Polo."
Doing as he was told, Marco could only watch as the creature brought his own wrist up and bit into it with his fangs, before pouring a steady stream of blood into Marco's makeshift container. The intelligent young man wasn't very surprised when the bite healed in moments, nor was he surprised when the next order was to drink what he'd been given.
He did so, unable to stop himself. He choked down the blood until there was nothing left of the coppery liquid. Once he was done the creature smiled again and straightened up. Suddenly Marco found himself in control again, able to move his hands from their cupped form and his eyes from where they'd been held by that terrible gaze.
One of his hands immediately went to the cross beneath his shirt, and the beast noticed the movement. Amusement colored the inhuman features as the cross was pulled roughly from Marco's neck and studied by those horrifying eyes.
"Psalms 72:11. All kings shall fall before him."
Marco chanced a glance up at the beast and was a bit outraged if not surprised as the creature laughed. Now he laughed at the word of God? How dare h-
Such thoughts are cut off by the monster's next words. "Do you pray to God for deliverance Mr. Polo? Is he going to save you and your family from me? I will let you in on a secret. God has sent me to you. I am only here now because of God. All of your suffering, all of your pain and agony now and into the future, you may lay at God's feet."
His brow furrowed, Marco opened his mouth to object to such blaspheme, but before he could get even a sound out, the monster's hand gripped his face, covering his mouth and nose and causing Marco's eyes to widen at the sheer speed, despite having already seen just how fast the thing was. The beast's free hand comes up and with his index finger pressed against his lips, he winks.
"Shh, shh. Don't talk. Sleep."
With a twist, Marco feels a sharp pain in his neck and then he feels nothing at all.
Marco wakes with a gasp and a shout, coming up from where his body had laid on the sand with wide eyes. He immediately wishes he hadn't as he takes in the sight before him. His father is still relatively unharmed, albeit restrained with rope in such a way that he can barely move, as well as gagged so he cannot speak. However, his uncle is spread before him with much of his skin flayed from his body. His clothing is torn from him and his chest is exposed to the harsh elements.
But then, his chest isn't exactly intact anymore, its torn open so that Marco can see his uncle's bones and organs, he can see his exposed lungs struggling to take in air and his heart as it beats frantically in its place. And to the side, the monster that's done all this with his bare hands looks up as Marco awakens and has the audacity to smile.
"Ah, Mr. Polo, finally back with us? Good, good. I told poor Maffeo here that he wasn't going to die until you came back to life. I believe he was starting to despair of it ever happening. But, a promise is a promise."
A casual swipe takes his uncle's head off right at the shoulders and Marco can only watch as it rolls away and the exposed organs in the decapitated body finally stop their frenzied efforts to keep working, the entire body settling down into death. Marco wishes he was feeling disgust. He should be disgusted. But as he stares at what should be the most horrific thing he's ever seen in his life, all he feels instead, is hunger.
A chuckle breaks his intense focus on the corpse, drawing his gaze back to the monster that'd just killed his uncle, "No no Marco. This isn't for you. This is a lesson. Your meal is right there, all tied up and ready for you."
Marco's eyes follow the beast's pointing finger to his father and his eyes widen as he finds himself of two warring minds. One is immediately horrified at the idea that he might harm his father and resolutely puts its foot down about ever doing what the monster wanted of him. The other catches sight of the pulse in Niccolo Polo's exposed neck and becomes hyper focused on the way the blood moves right below the surface, just out of reach.
In a moment of clarity Marco realizes what he really wants. He wants blood. His uncle's blood is open to the air and it's causing Marco's thoughts to grow rather hazy and tinted in red. His father's is out of reach but no less desirable. Marco's entire body shudders and he tears his focus from both sources of blood to look into the gold and black eyes of the one who had clearly done this to him.
"What have you done to me?"
Smiling wickedly, the beast stands from the side of Maffeo's corpse and spreads his blood soaked arms wide, "You have been cursed Marco Polo. The sins of the father fall onto the son. God's will be done, and once you drink your father's lifeblood, it will be done."
Marco's eyes are perpetually wide at this point as he shakes his head in both denial and disbelief, "No, I won't. I refuse."
He's proud of the fact that his voice didn't stutter or catch there, even as the monster just chuckles in response. "You will Marco Polo. I could make you do it, but I won't. As I said, your uncle was a lesson. You care about your father yes? I offer you his relatively painless death at your own hands." A pause here as he looks to Maffeo's mutilated corpse. "Or, he can experience what I did to poor Maffeo a hundred fold, until you finally cave and end his suffering. It is your choice Marco Polo."
Marco looks at his uncle's body in a different light and swallows thickly before looking to his father. Niccolo is staring back at him, and after a moment his head shifts, indicating Marco to approach. He did so, stumbling on the first step before finding his footing, glancing at the monster to see if he'd try to stop him, but the creature just stood by smiling.
Reaching his father, Marco pulled out the gag and Niccolo coughed and ran his tongue over his teeth before speaking in a low tone. "Marco, I never wanted this for you. His words, they expose the truth of this. All of it, all of this is my fault. My sins, my penance. Run Marco, leave me to this punishment. Run!"
"You could run." The words pierce the air and both Polos turn their eyes to the beast in surprise that he could hear Niccolo's words. He just smirks at them before continuing. "I would let you go Marco, if you chose to run now. In the best case scenario, you will die at the end of the day as the curse fails to take ahold and your body fails naturally. I did kill you when I snapped your neck after all."
Here, the monster's eyes turn to Niccolo. "You would die within the day. It would be painful and hard. But your father here, he would last much longer than you. What you would suffer in the next day if you fled now would pale in comparison to his unending suffering. You don't strike me as a coward Marco Polo. What will you do? Die and condemn your father to a fate worse than death, or kill him mercifully here and now, and accept the curse I have put on you?"
What would Marco do? As he looked into the monster's eyes, it seemed they both realized at the same moment what Marco would do. With a smirk, the beast flicked a small shiv over to Marco and to the young Italian's surprise, he caught it with no issue. Gripping the handle and gritting his teeth, he turned to look into his father's eyes for the last time.
"I am sorry father. I will carry your sins for you." With a swift movement, he cuts into Niccolo's neck right where that pulse has been beating in his ears this entire time. As his father's blood begins to flow, Marco lowers his mouth and begins to drink. The change is almost immediate, he feels his teeth elongating and changing in his mouth, allowing him to bite down deeper into his father's neck. He can feel his eyes straining as well, changing. His eye sight can make out every single wrinkle and crack in his father's pained face as he dies in Marco's suddenly stronger grip.
Marco cannot tear himself away until every last drop of Niccolo's blood has passed his lips and his father's body is cold in his hands. When he finally does though, he does so violently, pushing the body to the ground and standing up, stumbling back and retching at his actions. He knows now on a fundamental level that the beast is right. He is cursed now.
"You made the right choice Marco Polo. Welcome to your new world. This is your new existence. Immortality."
Marco's eyes flash up to the one who'd made him like this and though he wishes to rage and attack the monster, he finds himself strangely unwilling, even lethargic. Instead he puts his thoughts to words. "Earlier. You said God sent you. Why? What did my father do for our family to deserve this?"
He punctuates the last word with a wave of his hand at the carnage around them. All he gets in response is a laugh. "Every man sins Marco Polo. Your father was no worse or better than most of the world. God does bring justice to those who deserve it. God does what he does for amusement. That is what you are to him now. Diversion. Amusement. Sport. Humans are like ants to God Marco Polo. Why would he care about us as anything more than seeing how we scurry about when a boot falls from the heavens to crush us."
Marco wants to dispute this, but all of the biblical teachings he remembers from his childhood did not prepare him for this. That is words on paper in a book. This, this is reality. How can he deny it when it stares him in the future? If God was just and moral, why would he allow something like this to happen? And if God is truly all powerful and all seeing, how indeed can he possibly personally care about the scurrying of human shaped ants beneath his gaze?
"You understand now Marco. I can see it in your face. It's good that you begin this new life with this basic understanding already accepted and behind you. You have a lot of time in front of you. And God has words for you."
Marco flicks his eyes to those of his maker to show he's listening but does not respond beyond that.
"You are cursed to wander the Earth Marco Polo. You will explore the far reaches of the world and discover things never seen by any before you. You will get your greatest wish, to adventure the world and see all it has to offer."
Marco can't help it; he snorts derisively, "Doesn't sound like much of a curse."
He knows immediately that the words are a mistake as the monster's grin turns far more sinister. "There will come a time Marco Polo, where you wish to settle. You will want to stop your adventuring and leave your mark on the world in a more permanent way. Maybe marry a nice girl, have a couple children. This will never be possible for you. The adventure does not end. Your greatest wish becomes your eternal hell Marco Polo."
Ah, so there's the catch. Marco can't help but think that he should have seen such a thing coming, what with his new worldview of God being more akin to Satan. Before he can respond the beast is in front of him, grasping him by the shoulders and once more locking eyes with him.
"My time grows short Marco Polo, but there are a couple more things I must say before I go. First of all, you are immortal but not invincible. You can die, you can be imprisoned. When you die, your soul goes to God and I don't think I need to tell you that despite everything you've ever been taught, that is not a good thing. Even endlessly wandering the world is a better fate Marco Polo. Unless you want to become like me."
"Second, let's direct you a bit on the way to your first adventure. You're going to turn East and walk. Keep going until you run into something interesting alright? Don't stop before then. Understand?"
Marco finds himself nodding along and when he's let go, he turns to the East and begins walking, leaving behind his family's dead bodies, the carnage that was their caravan, and all of their supplies. Marco Polo, drenched in his father's blood, slowly plods along deeper into Asia and towards the greatest king the world had ever known, the Great Kublai Khan.
A/N: Well there we go. Please let me know what you think, and if you have any questions, I will try to answer them as promptly as I can. This will hopefully be my main story for the next little while and hopefully I'll finish this piece. I only intend to cover the first season of Marco Polo, though of course we'll have to see just how long this story can even stay on those rails with this change I've made. Should be fun!
Thanks for reading.