I came across this pieces by Ian Llanas on hist page at Deviatart.com. In the description, he wrote, “Fresh portfolio piece just in time for GenCon. This was targeted specifically at M:TG. Cheers! If you have a cool name for this dude, drop it in the comments. Right now I’m going with my working title, “nightmare”, but it’s lacking I think. Thanks!”
Well, I thought I would try to give it a name. I mean, why not. Once the name came, a backstory came a-knockin’…
Name: Kuæstoroth (Ku-ahs-toe-roth), the Jealous Guardian
Before Prince Abu Patel tricked the demon Kuæstoroth into believing it could ascend, passing in your sleep—passing in peace—increased a soul’s chance of moving on to become a higher being.
A brash apprentice to a great vizier, Abu would often sneak into the Nether realms to smuggle out forlorn souls in a lantern the vizier claimed to have been in his mystic line for longer then any earthly empire in existence.
On the mortal realm to harvest a soul, Kuæstoroth felt one of his captives break its bonds. This had happened before. In the Nether at the times of the escapes, the soul always made it out before Kuæstoroth could reach the edge.
Not this time.
Abu crawled from the Nether Rift. In his hand, a lantern, and—in the lantern—the soul Kuæstoroth captured some three years prior.
Kuæstoroth fell on Abu before the prince could raise any defenses.
To save his own life, Abu rattled a story of how he would take the full lantern into the Ether Rift where he would be exalted for his deeds.
Kuæstoroth eye’s blazed when the mortal said, “Anyone bringing a soul from the Nether is offered a chance to ascend.” He accepted the lantern and, in exchange for being guided to an Ether Rift, Kuæstoroth let Abu live.
Everything Abu said was true, except the part about entering the Ether Rift.
Believing he would either become a more perfect demon, or be set loose inside the gates of heaven to wreak havoc, Kuæstoroth leapt in.
There, bathed in light from above, searing pain peeled his skin away from his muscles, agony unraveled his muscles from his bones, and his bones disintegrated. Everything went dark. The lantern—
The lantern glowed.
The lantern…was still in his hand.
Awareness of his other hands came to him. Kuæstoroth explored what remained of himself only to find his skull, horns, and rib cage.
Days passed in the darkness before The Light from above lit again.
Kuæstoroth flinched away, but this time The Light didn’t bring any pain. In fact, it lit a soul far below him rising from a colorful dream-land. Coming up through the darkness to The Light.
Upon closing, the soul shrank from Kuæstoroth.
Extending the lantern, Kuæstoroth reached out to capture it. “If I cannot ascend, neither will you.”
Once in the lantern, Kuæstoroth understood the being he capture had passed in her sleep. While she hadn’t been perfect, she had been good. She hadn’t been chaste, but she’d been clean enough. She had earned passage into above, and her promised eternity would–instead–be spent in his lantern instead of The Light.
Seven decades later, Kuæstoroth met Abu for a second, and final, time.
© Ezekiel James Boston
While Ian enjoyed my quick draft, he didn’t adopt the name. Too bad. Would’ve been pretty cool.