For six thousand years we lived in terror of the crystal sky, in terror of the unavoidable punitive power of its winged Masters and their diamond chariots. Six thousand years of silent, unquestioning slavery. Six thousand years in the shadow of the Arqons’ – fortresses, pouring fire and sulfur on the unruly.
We erected sacrificial towers and placed precious gifts at their summits. We gave the Arqons our wives and daughters. At the bidding of the Masters, we waged war on those that crossed them or worshipped their enemies from a different part of the heavens. With a wave of their hand they brought down our kings and rewrote the tablets of our laws. We knew that their bodies, made from indestructible celestial metal, were invulnerable to our earthly steel. And we bowed to the ground when the fiery wings of the Arqon Masters flapped above us on high.
This continued until The Final Day.
Old people remember how the heavens were split in two. It is not known what happened between the Arqons, but the echo of their battle shook the Earth. Submissive to their will and driven by our priests, we embarked on a great journey. To destroy the altars of the infidels, to wipe their temples off the face of the earth, to create a river of blood in the name of the Masters.
In the skies above us winged legions soared and we beat our drums, muffling the beating of your hearts. War in the skies, war on the land. Let the ashes of the heroes soar to the clouds in the smoke of the funeral pyres and melt the stony hearts of the Masters.
Two great armies met in a place that is known nowadays as the Mountain of Revelation. Its summit was hidden in the clouds and on the first day of the battle half way up the mountain was covered in blood. Our blood. Nobody begged for mercy – we knew that the heavens have no mercy. Shields cracked, swords broke, those who could still crawl fought with their teeth. The ravines in that place still echo with the moans of those that died on The Final Day.
I know, I was there. After piercing another enemy with a broken spear I raised my eyes to the heavens to beg for the strength to survive until sunset. I thought it would be easier to die in the dark.
I saw the two leaders of the celestial armies clash over the summit of the mountain and come hurtling downwards, flaming like meteorites. They struck at each other with all their power and so great was their mutual hatred that they failed to notice that they were no longer flying, but falling.
The two Arqons crashed at the foot of the mountain and the Earth cried out in pain. A monstrous flash incinerated those that were fighting on the front line, and all the rest were knocked off their feet by the shock. The battle stopped. The survivors, confused and paying no attention to the color of the standard, crawled to the side of the giant crater that had formed at the point where the Masters has struck.
I was among those that reached the edge of the crater first. The earth had solidified from the heat and become like glass. The skin on my palms burned through to the flesh underneath, but I was unaware of the pain. The sight that appeared before me took possession of all my senses.
I saw the Master of my people. He lay by the side of his enemy at the bottom of the crater. The impact had broken and extinguished his fiery wings and ripped of his shining mask which I, like every other person on Earth, had believed to be the face of an Arqon.
At that moment the truth was revealed to me and to the others. The face of the Master of the heavens, which was twisted in pain, was the face of a person. That which we had taken to be the body of an invincible deity forged from celestial metal, was simply armor: A shell covering the vulnerable, mortal flesh underneath - the flesh of a celestial usurper and liar.
Thousands of voices joined in a roar of fury and disappointment that shook the slopes of the mountain. A hail of stones rained down on the Arqons, who merely moved weakly, unable to bring down destructive power upon us.
I didn’t look at the fallen any longer. They no longer interested me, as I had made another, more earth-shattering discovery. I looked at the mask of the Master, at the beautiful and horrifying countenance made from shining metal, which had fused to the side of the crater.
The mask was looking at me. I could hear and understand its call. Leaving behind pieces of burned flesh on the incandescent rocks, I crawled towards it. Breaking my nails, sensing an inhuman strength within me, I broke the mask away from the solidifying magma. Despite the heat radiating from everything around, the mask was cold. It cooled my disfigured palms, and it merely touching it filled me with a sense of limitless power and control over my own destiny, over the destiny of all of us.
I rose to my full height and pressed the mask against my bloodstained face .
A wave of Power surged through my body. I saw the world in colors that had never been seen by human eyes –. I felt myself rising above the earth and I could hear the clang of metal. The armor of the fallen Arqon left his body and, drawn by a magnetic force, linked itself around me.
With each section that took its place on my body, a new chapter in the revelation was opened it me. I could see the sequence of its owners, those who were epochs older than the current pathetic, weak and power-loving Arqons. They were not all humans. The appearance of some of them was so terrible that, if it were not for the fearlessness imparted to me by the armor, I would have gone mad and torn out my eyes.
I saw and understood that the armor had been forged at the dawn of time. The armor protected the world and those living in it from the soulless Devourers, for whose destruction the armor was created. The nature of the universe and the cause of the continuous wars both within this universe and outside its limits, all of this was revealed to me. The only thing that was hidden from me was the initial Creators of the armor, and the Devourers, with whom they were at war. It seems that my mind, even after being strengthened by the armor, was not yet ready for this encounter.
The true nature of the armor was revealed to me. It was imbued with a spirit and even with a type of reason. The armor could be loyal to its owner, could hate his enemy and teach the wearer the combat magic of the Creators. In return, it demanded only one thing – to serve the aims for which it was created: To protect the universe from those that try to undermine it, craving for the flame of our souls. Only the living flame of a soul can satisfy the eternal icy hunger of the Devourers. Only the owners of the armor and the weapons of the Creators stand between the Devourers and those that were born under the moon and the sun.
I learned that during its centuries of service the nature of the armor changed, as that of its owners changed. The armor adopted their qualities and not all of these were irreproachable, as intended by the Creators. The Power that opened wide the heavens and the firmament, demanded combat fury and the spirit of the armor was filled with a thirst for blood, which needed to be continuously slaked. The owner of the armor was doomed to wage war and in exchange his body, which was cased in celestial steel, became invulnerable to time, poison and weak human magic. Alas, the armor was unable to tell the difference between a just war and an unjust one, or a scoundrel and a hero.
The name of the celestial armor was revealed to me, a name that in the language of the Creators meant «unstoppable force», and also «chariot of destructive Power». Juggernaut.
- Juggernaut! – I cried out, and my voice – filled with the Power, was like thunder.
Wings woven from fiery thread flapped behind my back and my outstretched hand held a sword of cold light.
- Juggernaut! – I heard, and it was not an echo.
The warrior of another people, my enemy, also encased in the armor of the Creators, stood on the opposite side of the crater. His wings were dark, like the cloth of night, and incandescent lava dropped heavily from a crimson sword in his hand.
We looked at each other and this look told us that today our people would return their swords to the scabbards. Tomorrow we would transform our sacrificial altars into siege towers and ascend the walls of the flying fortresses. We would take the Juggernauts from the Arqons, who had abused its power. We would get vengeance for the thousand years of slavery, topple the former Masters from the heavens, trample them into the ground and drink our fill of their blood and tears.
And the day after tomorrow we would return here, to the mountain on the border between our lands. The foundations of the world will shudder under out feet, our wings will obscure the horizon. We will return and end that which was begun on The Final Day, because there is no peace, no rest, nothing…
…except the taste of blood on the lips, an icy hand in the heart, the iron cage of an alien body and the dull hum of hatred in the heavens.
And you will return here with me, Juggernaut warrior, to bring this ancient dispute to an end.
So say I, Destroyer of the Arqons, Diamond Chariot of Destruction, Protector of the World, Emperor of the Heavens. You will hear my call and know that our time has come.