Ballos and Misery: Madness and Sorrow
Did you know the witch-woman Jenka once had a brother? His name was Ballos. Like his sister, he wielded powers far beyond those of mortals...
It was not a nice day out. The great mage Ballos sighed to himself as he looked out the window at the gray morning skies, and began running his mind through all possible scenarios for the storm he could easily sense approaching. Floods, lightning, panic... in a kingdom where the people always look to one man for help, every little occurrence was a great disaster that could only be prevented by running to the savior, screaming calamity at the top of one's lungs. Ballos wished he could simply go back to sleep next to his beloved wife, but duty called, and he answered, as he had every day for many years now. Still, he felt this melancholy was unlike him, and the fact that he was troubled only troubled him more. Having long been exposed to exaggeration and a sort of social hypochondria, Ballos did not put much stock in omens and portents, as the common folk did plenty of that on their own. Still, something just felt wrong that day. He barely remembered anything from the time when he looked out the window upon waking up until he had reached his "Helping Chair", as the local children called it. His mind was so completely focused on trying to figure out what was going on that he had done all of his morning preparations on autopilot. This explained why he had two different-colored socks on, and why he still felt slightly hungry although he had eaten a full breakfast.
He used his magical powers to help and guide people, and they loved and trusted him.
His mind continued to play minor tricks on him for several hours, and the more he deliberated on the possible cause, the further the answers seemed to shy from his grasp. He simply could not shake the feeling that something was wrong, and he grew surer of it with each passing minute. The villagers that (rather predictably) came to complain about the rains and thunder left, for a change, more troubled than they had arrived; the great Ballos was clearly worried about something, something he could not do anything about, and it set fear in the hearts of the locals.
Even more than they did their own king...
Finally, late in the afternoon, a messenger arrived from the King: urgent business, the King requested that Ballos present himself at the royal palace immediately. This troubled the great sage more than anything yet that day. The King never wished to speak with him. While not a particularly bad ruler, the King had never commanded the loyalty of his subjects the way Ballos had. Ballos, of course, held no ill will toward any man, but the King secretly harbored a deep and powerful jealousy for the adoration that the sage received. While not fully aware of the extent of the King's hatred, Ballos knew that the monarch was at least not overly fond of him. If the King had summoned him, it could only mean grave tragedy. But Ballos had no idea how right he was in this assumption.
The jealous king had Ballos apprehended and thrown in prison, where his punishment
was brutal and cruel.
Upon his arrival at the castle, Ballos proceeded to the throne room, where the King's High Guard immediately accosted him. These, his most - and some would say only - loyal troops took the sage to the deepest section of the dungeon, into a room that did more to disgust Ballos than anything else. The cell was filled with hideous, painful torture devices, relics of a horrifically twisted ruler generations dead. Long out of use, many had fallen apart entirely, but the ones that survived had been oiled and polished quite recently, obviously in preparation for this day.
Humans can be terrible creatures indeed...
The King himself was waiting for the sage in this awful chamber, his hands covered in a foul black grease and his eyes burning with a hatred he could no longer control. He had obviously refurbished the room himself, and he had obviously taken great pleasure in doing so. The sage immediately perceived the King's intentions, but rather than fear or outrage, he expressed only pity for the man. This enraged the King even further, of course, and he began applying his "toys" to Ballos, wanting to break the man's spirit. Unfortunately for the kingdom, he turned out to be a very good torturer.
Under the extreme cruelty of the torture, Ballos' magical abilities ran wild.
Seconds felt like hours, minutes felt like days, hours felt like years. Ballos' mind knew only pain. With each new device the King introduced, the sage's suffering grew. And with every scream, every tear, every spasm, the King smiled wider. Ballos had never wished for anything for himself in his entire life, but under the influence of the King's malicious tools, his mind screamed only for release... and finally snapped.
The king was engulfed in a swirl of magic and destroyed in an instant. In a single night,
the kingdom that Ballos so loved was reduced to ashen ruins.
His magic quite literally exploded under the pressure of his pain. Energy turned to matter, matter turned to energy. Metal twisted and melted, cloth burst into flame, flesh turned inside out. Freed of the sage's constant mental control, his raw power burst forth and annihilated everything in its path. Nothing could stop the maelstrom of pain and madness. The castle became a smoking crater in mere seconds. The entire kingdom followed in short order. Men, women, children, animals, plants, wood, stone, metal... nothing survived. The blast radius was incredible, a gigantic swath of destruction hundreds of miles wide. The only sound that could be heard in the death of a kingdom was the tortured, insane, gibbering laugh of a mage whose powers and mind were completely out of his control.
Jenka, seeing her brother's madness, confined him to this floating island. That was the
most she could do. Even as he was, she could not bring herself to kill her own brother...
From her own abode, halfway across the world, Jenka felt the explosion of magic. She knew the only one capable of such power was her brother, but she could not believe that he would ever do such a hideous deed. She used but a small fraction of her own considerable magic to travel to the site of the blast, and to her horror, found her beloved brother standing in the middle of a decimated hole in the burned ground, laughing to himself in horrible anguish. He was a piteous sight, but she could not bring herself to end his suffering there... and she was not sure that her power was enough to do so, pitted against his madness. Instead, she confined him to the Floating Cave, where he would be isolated from the world, unable to cause a disaster of this magnitude ever again.
It was Jenka's daughter, Misery, who made Ballos create the Demon Crown. She was
subsequently cursed by the crown, forced to do the bidding of all who wear it.
Jenka had a daughter, known to the world as Misery. This girl, in her arrogance, wished to surpass her mother and uncle in power, and believed she knew how to do it. She coerced Ballos into creating an artifact of immense magical power, known as the Demon Crown, through trickery, suggestion, and even some judicious use of feminine wiles. She believed anything was worth being able to harness his power for herself. Finally, she convinced him to transmute his own soul into the Crown, the final vestige of his immense power contained wholly within the evil item. However, in his madness, Ballos had created a little surprise for Misery: he had planted a powerful geas into the Crown, and when she attempted to wear it and harness its force, it took hold of her. She was placed in complete slavery to the Crown, and by proxy, to all future users of it. She would forever be beholden to the one who wore the Crown, and obey his commands absolutely.
If the Crown is destroyed, the curse is lifted. However...
The geas was not only powerful, but also contained a subtle cruelty: while forced to obey the commands of the Crown-bearer, she retained full possession of her mind and will. The first Bearer had no idea what he was in for when he placed the artifact upon his head. Misery appeared before him, offering her complete service to him. She tricked and beguiled him, attempting to bend him to her will, and was finally able to destroy him and the Crown together. She expected to be freed, but to her sorrow, she found herself transported to the throne where the first Bearer had found the Crown... and was horrified to see the Crown materialize upon it, once again in perfect condition.
Even if the Crown is destroyed, it will only rise again every time, so long as Ballos yet
lives. Such is the strength of his soul that permeates the Crown...
She raged around the room, destroying the furniture it fury, before her mind settled enough to realize what she must do. She focused her magic into a lightning bolt and hurled it at the vile Crown... only to have it flung directly back into her face. She was unconscious for days, hearing only the insane laughter of Ballos echoing in her mind. When Misery awoke, she found herself confronted by a strange creature. "My name is Balrog," the thing said to her, "and I have been created and cursed by Ballos in the same manner as you." It explained that, upon the "destruction" of the crown, Ballos' humanity had resurfaced for a fleeting moment, long enough to realize Misery's misfortune. While he could not undo the curse he had made in that short amount of time, he was able to create a companion for her, one who could share in her sorrow and thus abate it slightly. After she was done roaring in anger and beating the strange creature around the room, she settled down with it, in the vast confines of the island, and together they awaited their next master...