A twisted and defiled form stands before Max, his bestial features a dark mirror of his own. Black Ichor drips from his clawed hands, pustulant black scales cover his skin, oozing a greasy pus from their seams. His eyes are reptilian and full of violent malice. He carries himself arrogantly with an air of pride and conceit. His mouth full of razor sharp teeth dripping with saliva.
He speaks in a low growl with a cruel edge. His words in Draconic.
“At long last you have returned, I have waited so very long to torture you once more. You gave up your life so willingly, and for nothing. You will not leave this place this time. I hope you enjoyed the entertainment I provided you before. The look on your face as your very own father broke your neck…He inhales sharply absolutely delicious.” I have so much more planned for you.
Max desperately strains against the chains but they do not give. Shadows circle him, dark creatures savoring the anticipation of fresh suffering. Fear and Panic begins to set in. He can see the light, but just as before he can’t reach it.
“I’m so close…damn it! Not now…not this time! I have to get out, I have to get to the Tablet!”
The monster speaks,
“Go ahead and pull with all your might, the more you do the more you’ll truly understand how futile it is.”
Max continues to strain, the chains rattle violently but do not break or even bend. Tears and frustration begin to well up within him as despair begins to take hold.
“I won’t let it end like this…they’ll all die…no light escapes the darkness that paladin wields.”
The monster smiles and laughs callously, his voice becomes more and more grandiose as he rants.
“Worry not Max, they are no longer your concern. No, I will return in your stead and savor every moment killing them. The look of betrayal will be so sweet, and after I destroy Strahd for his insolence, you will finally be what you were meant to be. A god of death and wrath unrivaled across the heavens! Every kill a meal, every soul rent a testament to my power!
Max again pulls against the chains his despair becoming swallowed up by rage. Lightning flares up around him for brief moment.
“I’LL KILL YOU BEFORE I LET THAT HAPPEN! YOU ARE NOTHING! A PHANTOM OF MY FAILURES!”
The Monster scoffs
“No Max, I am your true self, uninhibited by your humanity, a true beast of destruction reaping the meals entitled. Look within and you will know that this is the truth. Your power is so much greater than you are currently worthy of. Give in and let me take you to new heights free of the shackles of mercy or compassion. You NEED me, without me you have nothing.”
The strength of Max’s Rage passes, unable to free him, as he slumps the chains grow tighter, the light in the distance begins to fade. For a moment his heart breaks and he sobs angrily.
“I have failed…there is nothing I have left.”
The Monster grins maliciously
“Yes…THAT is what I want to see. Your suffering, I can taste it, I want to savor it for eternity. This is your true Fate”
The shadows close in on Max, beginning to overtake and devour him.
He mutters something to himself…first a whisper…then again louder.
“I still have Hope…Hope is the Heart’s Rebellion Against Fate, there is no Fate but what I choose.”
Max clenches his teeth and balls his fists.
“Mother…Father, everything, you gave me everything, every sacrifice, I won’t throw that away.” “I won’t lose this fight, not this one, not when the fate of so many hang in the balance, My family, my friends, my homeland, they are all counting on me.” “This power within me, I’ve feared it for so long…I must accept who I am…what I am. Please, I need your strength now.”
The Monster grows irritated and snarls
“You are nothing but a helpless child, a broken boat tossed in the unforgiving sea, an endless hurricane of fickle emotions! You are not worthy of this power! You know nothing! You have nothing!”
The Monster snarls, staring blades through Max, and screams in his face.
“YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY WEATHER THIS STORM!”
Max stares back at him defiantly before speaking calmly and with renewed confidence.
“No, I AM the Storm.”
Max begins to pull against the chains again, digging deeper than he ever has before, his muscles tear and his bones pop. The pain is excruciating but he pushes forward. The Shadows swarm around him like a dark cyclone obscuring him from sight. The chains begin to screech as Max pulls harder and harder. Lightning crackles all around him and into the chains. He feels his ribs crack and his shoulders begin to dislocate. As he reaches his limit he roars out a wordless cry in defiance, as he does his voice rises into what sounds like the rumbling thunder of a creature far larger than himself. Lightning crackles, enveloping him and vaporizes the shadows swirling around him An overflowing wellspring of power rises up from within the deepest parts of Max and with one final decisive motion he shatters the chains. Not a single piece of them reach the ground as Max’s lightning vaporizes the shards like a super heated Tesla Coil.
The Monster lunges for Max, blackened claws extended, he swipes at Max’s throat. Max manages to just barely escape, still taking a shallow cut to his neck. Max strikes back with claws of his own at his Dark Doppleganger, but he is just as quick and only takes a thin cut on the arm, the wound oozes black ichor. As his anger swells the blackened scales spread. As Max’s wrath begins to swell he too see his scales begin to turn black and spread. After several exchanges of claws both are breathing heavily. Max readies himself to charge again when a memory floods into his mind.
__"This isn’t who you are Max! Stay your hand and let that boy go!" Androse stands behind Max. In a young Max’s hands he has a young boy who has been badly beaten and bloody. Max growls and snarls like an animal his bloody knuckled fist raised to deliver a fatal blow.
Androse continues to speak.
“Max…if you give in to this…if you kill this boy…you will do something you can never take back.”
Max snarls back at Androse
“He called me a motherless monster, a curse upon my family and this town. That I should have died there in the mud with my failure of a mother.” “He has to pay…He has to suffer, I will MAKE him suffer!” Max raises his fist higher
“No Max, you are better than this, you are a kind heart just like your mother, she never wished suffering on others nor was she one for conflict. It is because she preferred this life of peace that she never mastered her magic, focusing more on the pursuit of love and happiness. She would want the same for you Max, but that cannot be, you have a dangerous power within, one that relishes in violence, it must be controlled and you must learn to live with it. You must calm the storm within your heart so that you do not destroy everything around you and yourself in wrath.
Max begins shaking as his grip tightens on the boy
“I want to hurt him, I want him to suffer, for what he did, how can I stop this, the feelings are so strong, the desire to maim him is almost overwhelming. I really am a monster…
Tears well up in Max’s eyes but his anger does not recede.
Androse speaks softly to Max
“Be the eye of the storm Max, have the will to control it, to shape and form it and protect others from it.
Androse ponders for a moment.
“Here, use this mantra to focus yourself, it is the first two lines of an Incantation I use to control some of my more powerful spells.”
“I am the Eye of the Storm, My will gives it Form”
Max takes a deep breath and repeats it several times, each time his rage grows smaller until it subsides and he drops the boy. Androse quickly heals the boy before casting a spell to modify his memory of this to protect Max.
Androse looks sternly upon Max
“Speak of this to no one, lest you wish to be seen as the monster you think you are.”__
The memory fades away
Max looks down upon his blackened claw and takes a deep breath.
He begins casting a spell…“I am the Eye of the Storm.” “My Will gives it Form.”
The Monster roars out enraged and begins casting a spell of his own in Draconic. Lightning arcs wildly across the landscape as the sheer power of the two spells prepare to collide. Once again Max feels that power swell within him and a moment later with a deafening thunderclap he looses the biggest bolt of lightning he has ever mustered. The monster does the same and with a cataclysmic crash as they collide the landscape is bathed in a blinding light.
Max opens his eyes standing before the great Tablet. His hand still shaking from the power of the last bolt he threw.