|M.O.: Wanton abuse of temporal paradoxes|
Known accomplices: Garland, Lich, Kary (Marilith), Kraken, Tiamat, WARMECH
First Appearance: Final Fantasy (Square, NES)
Distinguishing features: Incarnation of the formless void; tiny face on groin armor
|Profile by Jeremy Parish? | February 17, 2011|
Garland stood tall, arrogant, in his defiance. Behind him, the princess clutched at the bars of her cell, her shackles rattling discordantly against the ancient iron rods, flaking but firm. The fallen knight was unkempt, his armor dull in the torchlight gloom of his makeshift throne room, his cloak tattered, the silver threats of his heraldic emblem tarnished to blackness. Yet there was menace in his bearing, a regal confidence that belied his disheveled appearance. He was a knight and true, more than a match for these pitiful whelps who dared defy him.
The four youths, dispatched by the king of Corneria, had the look of the novice about them. Their actions were hesitant, and their common-looking equipment still shone with a patina of newness. Clearly, these were no veteran combatants.
“The old king must be growing desperate to send fresh-faced lackeys such as these,” thought the dark warrior to himself, savoring the memory of entire platoons of his former comrades struck down through his mastery of the sword abetted by the dark power he had communed with in this decrepit castle. And then something grazed his senses, an inexorable awareness that chilled his spirit and prickled his flesh. An aura of magic, of tremendous power—held back, muted, unrealized, but potent in its unrealized potential. These were no ordinary children. Could they be...?
Garland continued to size up the intruders, and they in turn seemed reluctant to make the opening sortie of a battle. The tableau of their standoff was shattered after a moment as the princess rattled her chains against her cell door again and cried, “Please! Please, stop this madman and set me free!”
A sort of resolve came over her would-be rescuers. Garland could see it in their eyes as they took stock of the princess’ situation—the tattered and filthy state of her gown, the chafed redness of the skin around her manacles, the stale crusts of bread on her food tray, more of which had been consumed by vermin than by the captive herself.
“No one touches my Princess!!” he spat, and the crazed light that flickered in his eyes was visible even through the obscuring mass of his battered helmet. Flecks of mad spittle alit on his grey and white beard. “Light Warriors?? You impertinent fools. I, Garland, will knock you all down!!”
In a flash, he was upon the warriors, his blade flashing almost faster than the eye could see in the dim torchlight. He felt a meaty rip as his first blow struck the martial artist unawares. His second blow, however, sent up blue sparks as it struck the metalwork of the red-clad warrior’s leather shield. The shock of the impact numbed his sword arm and left him briefly disoriented. His sword should have cleft such a pitiful buckler in twain, and likely the arm behind it! As the Light Warriors scrambled to fall into a defensive formation and mend their comrade’s wound, Garland took a moment to reorient himself. His instincts had been right: These pups were no ordinary children, or at the very least they were ordinary children protected by an extraordinary power.
It made no difference either way. For the first time in decades, Garland felt fear.
“Grant me power,” he begged the shrine, as much a plea as a prayer. He knew not the force that infused this ancient temple, only that its power resembled a dark counterpart to the energy exuded by his opponents. He had drawn upon its strength since holing up here, but a sense of self-preservation kept his lust for power in check. He sipped at the river of eldritch energy contained in the ancient stone, never gulping, but now he knew his only choice to win—to survive—was to open himself wholly to its flow, to make himself a vessel. Whatever the consequences, surely it was better than the conclusive void of death.
The warriors were coming around now. Garland fended off their assaults with wild sword swings, keeping them at bay but unable to find an opening in their relentless press. The power had not responded. His sword arm still felt numb, and cold too.
“Grant me power!” he cried as a flash of fire from a spell cast by the acolyte mage licked across his armor. The heat blistered his flesh, yet the coldness had spread to his legs. His blows grew in desperation, edged with a sense of sheer fury at this turn of events. Why had the king ignored his loyalty and contributions? Why had Sarah spurned him? Why were these untested whelps so powerful? How had they found strength in such power? Why now did his own source of strength forsake him?
Bitterness, anger, hatred, self-loathing, and sheer rage coursed through him as the battle made its way into the shrine’s central courtyard. Garland’s sword connected with the fighter’s, knocking the weapon from the younger warrior’s hand. It clattered noisily on the flagstones. Yet before the dark knight could bring his sword around to land a killing blow, the Light Warrior’s martial art stepped in and delivered a dozen rapid punches, each landing too fast for the eye to follow. Garland’s battle-tested iron armor dented under the force of the pummeling. He felt the ribs along his right side crack, causing him to nearly drop his sword in shock.
Though his sword did not fall, the old knight himself did. He stumbled to his knees in agony, the cold numbness now having spread through his entire body. He could no longer feel his extremities. Through the white-cold darkness that crept over his vision, he could see the Light Warriors flanking him as their combat vanguard strode across the courtyard to retrieve his fallen blade.
Garland threw back his head in apoplectic fury, his helmet loosed and falling to the floor as he screamed, “Grant me power!”
Suddenly, there was silence, the echoes of his cry absorbed by the very air, which had grown heavy and oppressive. The Light Warriors tensed again for battle, their movements making no sound in the gloom. And then, a voice rang out, not heard by the ear so much as felt by every atom of their being:
And then, Garland was slain, the fighter’s sword piercing his heart. The old knight looked down at the blade embedded in his chest and the stern yet regretful expression on his killer’s youthful face. And he felt only contempt. “You dare pity me?” he attempted to shout. “You dare!?” But it was only a gurgle, a cough of dark black blood that stained his white-shot beard. His head fell forward, and the Light Warrior removed the sword. Garland’s body slumped lifeless to the floor. The blood on his face couldn’t mask the snarl of utter hatred frozen in his features.
And as the Light Warriors turned to free Sarah from her shackles, they never noticed the inky shadows in the corners of the courtyard pooling together. Thick strings of blackness, non-corporeal tendrils of pure unlight, snaked across the cobbles to wrap around Garland’s remains. Within seconds, he was wreathed in impenetrable blackness. Then the shadows dissipated, leaving nothing in the courtyard but a thickening pool of blood. The blood would be washed away at the next rainfall, obliterating the final traces that Garland had ever existed.
An eternity later, or perhaps millennia earlier, in a timeless, formless void, Garland opened his eyes. He couldn’t move, nor feel his limbs, but he knew his body existed because it bespoke pure pain. There was no sound, no light. The searing agony of his chest and the fire-borne blisters of his flesh were the only sensations he knew. Panic washed over him as he realized he was dead and, presumably, in Hell.
THIS IS NOT HELL
The voice, again, wasn’t heard. It simply was. It resonated within Garland’s body, each profound syllable irritating his wounds with the agony of fresh infliction. Garland screamed in pain. The scream made no sound.
HAVE REACHED ME
I SHALL GRANT
YOU POWER BEYOND
Fury welled up in Garland’s heart. “What good is power to a dead man? Why did you not heed my entreaties when I stood a fighting chance against those children!?”
YOU WERE INSUFFICIENT
BUT NOW YOUR
EXISTENCE IS ANGER
YOU SHALL BE MY VESSEL
Concepts flooded into Garland’s mind, visions of the future and the past and the means to unmake the world, to transform his rage into pure destruction millennia before he was ever wronged. It would take countless centuries to come to fruition, but that was all the more time to nurse his hatred of all who had wronged him and savor their unknowing demise.
“Who are you, that grants me this boon?”
I AM NOTHING
Garland was stunned to realize the voice was no longer in his head. It issued instead from his own mouth.
THE TRUE NOTHING
THAT ALL EXISTENCE
I AM INEVITABLE,
AND YOU ARE MY ENVOY
The transfiguration of Garland’s flesh took an eternity, and it was a process as painful as his eternally unhealing wounds. Yet They relished the agony of Their new existence. Every second of suffering would renew Their purpose. It would drive Them toward Their ultimate goal of reducing all that was, and is, and could ever be... into Nothing.